Objective: To critically examine utilisation of the 13 allied health services provided through Medicare Chronic Disease Management program and related general practitioner (GP) care planning initiatives.
Methods: Statistics generated from national billing data from July 2005 to June 2009 were extracted from Medicare data and compared by profession, State or Territory and population.
Results: Most services grew over 4 years although nationally consistent service levels were not found for any allied health provider profession. On referral from GPs, podiatry, physiotherapy and dietetics provided most services (82%) in 2008-09. Professions had unique patterns of referral instanced by age range and sex of clientele. Wide variation was apparent in per capita utilisation of allied health services by State or Territory; some with far less than average national use and others with high use. Annual number of GP Management Plans or Team Care Arrangements was low (mean: ≤22 per GP in 2008-09), indicating low use of care planning.
Conclusion: Inequality of accessibility for patients was apparent. Five years into the program, a review of Medicare Allied Health CDM policy is warranted. Implications. Research and evaluation is needed to identify whether the program is meeting the needs of GPs, allied health providers and chronic disease patients.