According to a recent study by The Independent, more than a quarter of Australians are now facing the prospect of losing access to physiotherapy when they reach retirement age.
Read moreA study by the Independent on Sunday (TIV) analysed the financial impact of the ageing population and found that the cost of physiotherapy has increased in Australia since the mid-2000s, as more Australians start to retire.
“We need to change that perception of what physiotherapy is for,” said Sarah Brown, a professor of public health at Monash University and a lead author of the study.
“There’s a belief that physiotherapy for people who don [have] a chronic condition is just for the rich and famous.”
Read moreIn the study, published on Wednesday in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers analysed the cost-effectiveness of different physiotherapy machines across a range of different conditions, including cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart failure.
They looked at the average cost of each treatment, from the first to the latest, as well as the average payment per treatment and whether patients had insurance or not.TIV found that in some cases, the difference between the cost and payment per session was as much as $5,000.
In some cases the difference was less than $1,000 and in others, such as cancer, patients paid a maximum of $1.60 per treatment.
The study found that while the cost per treatment was not significantly different between treatments, the payment per patient was.
“It is clear that for some people, they don’t really understand the impact that they’re paying for physiotherapy,” said Brown.
“But we also know that for other people, it can be an enormous cost savings.”
In some situations, such a difference was the difference in the cost or payment per hour.
The average cost per session for each treatment ranged from $3,400 for cancer to $12,700 for stroke.
“When we look at the cost, it’s quite striking to see that there’s this huge difference between different treatments,” said Dr. Michael Beasley, a researcher at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Medical Sciences and the lead author on the study.
“It’s really difficult to say that people aren’t being asked to pay for physiotherapies.”
In other cases, such differences were negligible.
The cost per hour was the same for both treatments.
The researchers also looked at how much time was spent using the machines, and how often the patient spent time in the room.
“In some circumstances, the physiotherapy device was used less than one-third of the time, which was a significant issue for many patients,” said Beasley.
“We think that for the vast majority of patients, the cost savings are really quite substantial.”
The study has some limitations, the main one being that the study relied on self-reported data.
But the researchers say it provides evidence that the price difference between treatments is substantial.
“This study does provide some useful data that will be important for the medical community,” said Bowers.
“And the potential for future research is exciting.”
Read the full study here.