A global survey of allied health practitioners has found telephone and online healthcare appointments are here to stay, with demand for virtual health services remaining strong after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Leading Australian practice management software company Cliniko surveyed 2654 allied health professionals from 34 countries as part of celebrations to mark the company’s tenth anniversary. The majority of responses came from practitioners and administrators in Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, with practices from Asia, Africa and the Middle East also contributing to the project.
Cliniko found peoples’ use of telehealth has at least doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19, with phone and online appointments now more than five times more popular in the UK and 2.2 times more common in Canada.
Cliniko founder Joel Friedlaender said the survey shows some of the ways the allied health sector has stayed ahead of the curve, despite the challenges arising during COVID-19.
“The pandemic has changed so much about our lives, including the way we access health care. A lot of people were surprised that professions like physiotherapy can be effective via telehealth, but the past two years have shifted these perceptions,” Joel Friedlaender said.
The study shows allied health practices have been resilient in the face of massive disruptions, with up to half continuing operating during COVID-19 restrictions despite only being able to offer telehealth services, and less than three per cent closing their doors for good.
A range of insights have been revealed about the allied health sector, revealing the average business employed just over three practitioners. This is demanding practitioners take on a wide range of duties, with one-quarter of businesses not employing any administrators, nearly half not employing a bookkeeper and two thirds not outsourcing any roles.
“Practitioner’s education predominantly prepares them for the care of their patients and there is very little in their education about the business side of private practice. Perhaps this is why we’re seeing so many people reaching out for business coaches and mentoring,” Joel said.
The data shows that word of mouth is key to growing allied health businesses, accounting for the majority of new referrals to many services.
The study also revealed a high level of ambition amongst the allied health workforce, with many respondents expressing a desire to achieve senior practitioner status or own their own business.
Despite the challenges arising from the pandemic, the vast majority of employees are settled in their roles and believe they are well remunerated.
“We know that COVID-19 has placed a lot of additional pressures on healthcare workers, so it’s very positive to learn that so many practitioners have adapted and are still progressing with their work,” Joel said.