Allied health as ambassadors for appropriate health care around Australia

Mulcahy A1, Giles G2

1Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, 255 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000.
2 Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, 255 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000.


Allied health clinicians, our “village”, are collective health system ambassadors who ensure that evidence-based and appropriate care is always delivered. These professions are well-regarded in how they support consumers to make the right decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. This is important in the current politicised commitments to reduce unwarranted variation in healthcare interventions in rural, remote and metropolitan areas around Australia.


The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care worked with the National Health Performance Authority to analyse rates of 37 healthcare interventions from the Medicare Benefits Schedule, Pharmacuetical Benefits Scheme and Admitted Patient Collection data sets. Analysis was conducted by local geographical areas, with remoteness and socioeconomic status stratification.


The Atlas of Healthcare Variation was released late 2015. For the first time, geographical variations in the rates of healthcare interventions were reported around Australia. Key implications for allied health include a 7-fold variation in rates of knee arthroscopies, 3-fold in computed tomography of the lumbar spine, 3-fold in opioid dispensing and 5-fold in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease hospital admissions. Many interventions were used more in areas of higher socioeconomic status.


Depending on where they live, or which health professionals they consult, people with the same health conditions may be managed differently. The Atlas maps show significant variation occurs in some healthcare diagnostics and treatments in Australia, which raises questions about appropriate care.  Allied health clinicians can act to drive appropriate care and reduce unwarranted variation in the health system in many ways.


Amanda Mulcahy works the Commission in Sydney on a range of projects helping to identify and reduce unwarranted variation in healthcare. She is also completing her Master of Health Policy at the University of Sydney. Prior to this, Amanda was a statewide project lead for the implementation of Activity Based Funding in WA Health. She also has experience in managing local health district strategic projects. Amanda continues to work clinically as an acute hospital physiotherapist and is the immediate past president of the WA Branch of the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

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