Aim: Uptake of Medicare-funded chronic disease management items has increased exponentially since the programme commenced in 2004. We aim to report on national utilisation of the five most referred of 13 allied health services and to examine patient uptake rates.
Methods: Annual statistics generated from national Medicare billing data from January 2010 to December 2010 were extracted from the Medicare public database and compared by profession, state and per capita population.
Results: The five most utilised individual services were: (in decreasing order) podiatry, physiotherapy, dietetics, chiropractic and speech pathology. They provided 94% of all allied health consultations nationally, on referral from general practitioners. Per capita utilisation revealed wide variation in uptake by state and territory; some states had far less services than the national average. Patterns of referral instanced by age range and gender of clientele differed between professions. Most dietetics clients were middle aged (45–74 years) and this fits with expectations of chronic disease incidence. There was inequity of access to group services for the management of type 2 diabetes, with most services (85%) provided in South Australia and New South Wales.
Conclusion: Dietetics providers have maintained and improved their referral rate and continue to be the third most utilised Medicare chronic disease management allied health service. Six years into the programme, further exploration is warranted to understand the reasons for wide variation in rates of patient uptake for the service provider professions.