Allied Health Services

What is allied health?

  • Allied health is a broad term referring to all of the many different health professions that are not medical, dental or nursing professions.
  • All allied health professionals are university-qualified practitioners that have specific training and expertise in diagnosing and treating various medical conditions.
  • They are valued member of a patient’s healthcare and form an important part of a patient’s multidisciplinary care team.

Why is allied health important?

  • As we continue to promote a biopsychosocial model of health, allied health professionals are becoming increasingly more important in managing a patient’s health.
  • Allied health professionals provide an additional paradigm of support for a patient that is not specifically covered by their medical practitioners.
  • Allied health plays a vital role in a patient’s care in all healthcare settings including inpatients, outpatients, acute and chronic care.
  • As Australia’s population continues to grow, and to age, the amount of time and attention that doctors can give to their patients is being stretched. Allied health professionals are becoming more important in this context as they can help to provide the patient with not only physical but emotional, social and mental support.

What are the main areas of allied health practice?

There are six main areas of allied health practice: aged care, chronic disease, disability, mental health, musculoskeletal health and rehabilitation.

  • Aged care
    • As older Australians are continuing to make up a greater proportion of the population, allied health has become incredibly important because older Australians are more likely to require additional care and support. Allied health professionals play a vital role in managing chronic diseases and injuries from falls, both of which have higher rates in aged care settings.
    • The main roles of allied health professionals in aged care are:
      • Promotion of healthy ageing and reducing likelihood of aged-related diseases such as dementia
      • Reducing the impact of chronic diseases on a patient’s life
      • Introducing and running interventions that aim to manage and mitigate falls risk
      • Rehabilitation care following a fall or serious injury or illness, such as a stroke
      • Educate the patient about various aged care services and help patients to navigate their way through the aged care system
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in aged care often include:
      • Occupational therapists
      • Physiotherapists
      • Dieticians
      • Speech pathologists
      • Psychologists
      • Arts and music therapists
  • Chronic disease
    • Chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability in Australia, and burden of chronic disease is growing exponentially. The most common chronic diseases in Australia are diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, and mental ill-health. These health problems place significant strain on Australia’s healthcare system as well as markedly reduce a patient’s quality of life.
    • Allied health professionals play a key role in the prevention, treatment and management of these diseases which involves:
      • Educating patients about their illness
      • Encouraging patients to be active participants of their health team
      • Providing emotional and mental support for patients and their families
      • Promotion of self-management and independence
      • Planning and coordinating a patient’s care as part of a multidisciplinary team
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in diabetes care often include:
      • Diabetes educators
      • Dietitians
      • Exercise physiologists
      • Podiatrists
      • Optometrist
  • Disability
    • Almost 20% of Australians live with some form of disability and allied health professionals play an integral role in delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
    • Allied health providers are important participants in a patient’s care whether their disability be physical, psychosocial, intellectual or developmental. Their main aims for a person living with a disability are:
      • Enabling independence as much as possible
      • Allowing participation in everyday life whether that be at home, school or work
      • Improving all elements of health and wellbeing
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in disabilities often include:
      • Audiologists
      • Occupational therapists
      • Physiotherapists
      • Speech pathologists
      • Psychologists
      • Art and music therapists
  • Mental health
    • Similarly, to disabilities, almost 20% of Australians suffer from mental ill-health that range in complexity and the way in which they manifest.
    • Common mental health disorders seen in the community include depression and mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.
    • Mental health conditions that may require inpatient settings, especially for an acute exacerbations or episodes, include psychosis and schizophrenia.
    • Mental ill-health also extends to include psychological traumas such as life crises, family conflict, and relationship breakdowns.
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in mental health often include:
      • Clinical psychologists
      • Registered psychologist
      • Social workers
      • Occupational therapists
      • Dieticians (for eating disorders)
      • Art and music therapists
  • Musculoskeletal health
    • Musculoskeletal conditions are extremely prevalent in Australia, with one third of Australians suffering from either osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis or chronic back pain. These conditions become more common with ageing. These chronic pain disorders can significantly reduce a patient’s mobility, disabling them from carrying out their everyday activities or participating in recreational activities. As the pain continues, individuals lose their fitness and become deconditioned which exacerbates their problem. Ultimately, these conditions can drastically reduce a patient’s quality of life. Allied health professionals are a core element of the patient’s multidisciplinary team. For complex cases, allied health professionals with advanced training can provide more specialised care and aim to:
      • Allow the patient to take control of their condition
      • Improve the patient’s quality of life through improving and restore their mobility and function
      • Provide emotional and psychological support to the patient
      • Help the patient cope with pain without over-reliance on medications
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in MSK health often include:
      • Physiotherapists
      • Exercise physiologists
      • Osteopaths
      • Chiropractors
      • Orthotists
      • Podiatrists
      • Dieticians
  • Rehabilitation care
    • One in six Australian adults experience a stroke in their lifetime, which is the most common reason for a patient requiring rehabilitation care. Without an optimal rehabilitation program tailor to the individual patient, a stroke can have disastrous long-term consequences including reduced quality of life, increased morbidity and shortened lifespan. Allied health professionals are crucial in rehabilitation programs for stroke victim, with some having undertaken advanced training to specialise in rehabilitation care. These professionals work to:
      • Restore the patient’s baseline level of function
      • Improve the patient’s quality of life
      • Reduce the level of ongoing health and community support required
    • Allied health professionals that are involved in rehabilitation often include:
      • Physiotherapists
      • Speech pathologists
      • Occupational therapists
      • Dieticians

What allied health services are available?

  • Click on each service for a more detailed description of each allied health service
Services Brief Description
Arts Therapy
  • Therapists use visual art such as drawing, painting and sculpture to improve patient’s mental health and well-being
  • It can be particularly beneficial for patients with developmental, intellectual or cognitive impairments who find it difficult to express their feelings verbally
  • Audiologists are specialists in hearing loss and balance disorders.
  • Audiology is focused on helping patients of all ages with all forms of hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo.
  • Audiologists can administer tests to diagnose hearing and balance disorders, prescribe and fit devices such as hearing aids, and provide advice on other technologies such as cochlear implants.
  • Chiropractors specialise in back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. The treatments focus on manipulation, massages, use of ergonomic devices, and advice about lifestyle changes the patient can make to improve their health and wellbeing.
  • Dieticians specialise in food and nutrition. They work with patients of all ages suffering from a variety of conditions including obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, gastro-intestinal disorders and eating disorders.
  • Dieticians prescribing tailored meal plans for individual patients based on their nutritional needs. They work in many different settings such as residential aged care, childcare centres, and hospitals as well as work with government and non-government organisation to promote healthy eating.
Exercise Physiology
  • Exercise physiologists use exercise-based interventions such as personal training, aerobic and strength training to either prevent or manage acute, sub-acute and chronic diseases and injury.
  • They work with a range of patients with a strong focus on keeping patient’s as active and fit as possible by giving lifestyle advice and aiming for long-term behavioural change.
Genetic Counselling
  • Genetic counsellors are specialists in human genetics and most often work as part of a multidisciplinary team rather than an solo practitioners. They provide information to families about genetic conditions, the risks of inheriting these conditions, as well as provide emotional support for those suffering from genetic conditions.
  • Genetic counsellors can specialise further in reproductive, oncological and paediatric counselling.
Medical Radiations
  • Radiographers are highly specialised practitioners that are equipped at operating complex medical equipment and machinery such as MRI scanners, CTs and X-rays.
  • Radiographers are not radiologist. A radiologist is a medically-trained doctor who specialises in the interpretation of the high-quality images that the medical equipment produces.
Music Therapy
  • As the name suggests, music therapy focuses on using music as a means of improving patient’s health and well-being.
  • Music therapists work in a range of settings with patients of all ages. It is most beneficial for patients suffering from disability, cognitive impairments, developmental delays or mental illness as music can be used as a tool for these patients to express themselves in different ways.
Occupational Therapy
  • Occupational therapists focus on enabling patient’s to be able to complete their activities of daily living (ADLs) with as much independence as possible. ADLs can be divided into personal (dressing, showering, eating), domestic (cooking, cleaning) and community (shopping, working, socialising).
  • Therapists work with patients on an individual basis to help achieve the patient’s own realistic goals in terms of what they want to be able to achieve in their life.
  • Optometrists are specialists in eye health and help all patients of all ages suffering from countless eye conditions. These commonly include such as refractive errors (short- and long-sightedness), dry eyes, allergies and infections.
  • Optometrists are specialists in using visual tests and fundoscopy to examine the eyes. They screen for, diagnose and manage many eye conditions. They are able to provide patients with topical treatments (eye drops) for infections and allergies, as well as prescriptions (glasses and/or contact lenses) for vision problems.
  • Orthoptics are specialists in eye diseases and work closely with ophthalmologists (medically-trained doctors who specialise in eye diseases).
  • Orthoptics focus on eye diseases that affect eye movement and the way in which the eyes work together (binocular vision).
  • They also specialise in poor vision that cannot be affected with glasses, vision defects caused by neurological deficits (such as following a stroke or traumatic brain injury), diabetic-related eye diseases, and age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Orthotics &


  • Orthotists and prosthetists are specialists in the provision of various limb and extremity devices, such as braces, splints and artificial limbs, for patients who are living with physical or functional limitations.
  • Orthotists and prosthetists assess, prescribe, design manufacture and fit all these devices. They also play a key role in monitoring the device’s efficacy and educating the patient on how to use and care for the device to ensure the device has the best chance of helping the patient meet their individualised goals.
  • They are especially important for patients following an amputation, following a major injury (trauma, sports, or work-related), or living with any illness or disability that limits the patient’s mobility and function.
  • Osteopaths are specialists in muscle strains, sprains, tears and overall human body movement. They provide manual therapies such as needling and massage, as well as prescribing exercise tailored programs, educating patients and giving patients lifestyle advice to increase mobility and reduce pain.
  • Osteopathy plays an important role in the health of patients suffering from any neuromuscular conditions, whether this be following an acute injury or due to a chronic problem such as poor posture.
  • Although all paramedics are training in responding to emergencies, those who have attained further qualifications to have additional primary care skills are practitioners who work alongside doctors and nurses.
  • Paramedic practitioners with additional primary care skills are able to assess and treat a broader range of health conditions, and work in health promotion, disease prevention and management of acute and chronic diseases.
  • For more information, click here
  • Perfusionists are technicians specialised in working heart-lung bypass machines to ensure the health and functioning of all vital organs during cardiac bypass surgery.
  • Perfusionists most often work in cardiac operating theatres but can also work in intensive care units as well as general, orthopaedic, vascular and neurosurgical operating theatres.
  • Physiotherapists specialise in the structure and function of the human body, in particular the musculoskeletal system. They work in a range of healthcare settings with patients of all ages suffering from numerous different conditions.
  • Physiotherapists commonly work with people recovering from injuries (trauma, sports, work-related) or a stroke, as well as patient living with osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Physiotherapy extends from musculoskeletal-based therapy to also include treatment and management of cardiothoracic and neurological problems.
  • Physiotherapists assess, diagnose and manage a range of health conditions through prescribing and supervising exercises, providing aids and appliances, and giving lifestyle advice to help patients achieve their individualised goals.
  • Podiatrists specialise in foot care. Their practice ranges from treating various foot-related problems, such as calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, to helping patients suffering from diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, neuropathies as well as sports injuries and structural deformities, and general bone and joint disorders.
  • Podiatrists are also involved in care of elderly patients to mitigate falls risk.
  • Podiatrists can work closely with orthotists to prescribe orthoses for patients requiring mobility assistance through specialised and individualised footwear.
  • Psychologists are experts in human behaviour and specialise in understanding how humans think, feel and behave. Psychologists are useful practitioners for people of all ages in managing normal life stressors, such as starting a new job or handling complicated relationships.
  • Psychologists also play a crucial role in diagnosing, treating and managing patients with mental ill-health such as depression and anxiety. Psychologists work with these patients in a variety of therapeutic ways to improve their mental health and well-being.
  • Psychologists can often work in tandem with psychiatrists, who are medically trained doctors that specialise in mental health conditions and can prescribe medication.
Rehabilitation Counselling
  • Rehabilitation counsellors work closely with patients living with chronic illness, disease or disability to help them to reach their goals which focus upon economic, educational and/or social elements of life.
  • Rehabilitation counsellors not only help patients to achieve their goals but can play a vital role in helping patients to set out these initial goals so that they can then work together towards achieving them.
Social Work
  • Social workers aim to help patients achieve better social and personal wellbeing. They work primarily to ensure people have stable housing, a safe living situation, and financial security to afford basic needs such as food and clothing.
  • Social workers are involved in caring for patients who are living rough, unemployed, victims of domestic violence or child abuse, suffering from trauma, living with drug and/ or alcohol addictions.
  • Social workers provide counselling, educate patients about support services available as well as coordinate and manage these services for patients.
  • Sonographers are trained in using ultrasound technology to produce high-quality images of the body in order to help assess, diagnose and treat a range of medical conditions. Most people are familiar with ultrasounds being used to see the fetus during pregnancy, but they have a much wider scope of use and are used by doctors for many more conditions.
  • Ultrasound imaging relies on the operator’s skills to produce high-quality images more so than other type of medical imaging. Sonographers are highly trained and work closely with radiologists (medically trained doctors who specialise in interpreting medical images).
Speech Pathology
  • Speech pathologists are experts in assessing, diagnosing and treating patients who have communication difficulties. Their scope of practise ranges from helping patients who have trouble speaking, listening, reading, and writing, as well as broader social skills.
  • Speech pathology is useful for a range of patients including those living on the autism spectrum, children with developmental delays and adults who have suffered from a stroke or brain injury.

How do I access an allied health service?

There are different ways for you to access allied health services depending on your circumstances. Anyone can access allied health professionals as a private patient without a referral from their doctor. However, this will mean that you will have to pay the full financial cost of the service unless you have private health insurance where you may be able to make a rebate for part of the service. However, as allied health professionals play such a crucial role in so many lives, there are many different funding schemes set up within Australia that help to financially assist patients in accessing life-changing allied health services.


  • The federal government recognises the key role that allied health professionals can play in many patients lives. Therefore, there are various funding schemes that have been put in place throughout the years to help a range of patients such as those living with chronic diseases, children with autism, and those experiencing mental health.
  • To access Medicare-funded allied health services, the first step is to make an appointment with your local GP. If you are suffering from an chronic disability or illness, mental ill-health, or any form of complex need, you have the right to ask your GP for help with accessing allied health.
    • Your GP can prepare and coordinate a Chronic Disease Management (CDM) plan for you which can give you access to a range of allied health services. Through this service, your GP can write a referral for you to an allied health service that they believe will assist in treating and managing your chronic or complex medical needs.
  • To be eligible for a CDM, you must have been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal medical condition by your GP. This includes, but is not limited to asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, stroke and mental ill-health.

My Aged Care

  • For older Australians, the My Aged Care portal is the best place to find out if you are eligible to access funded allied health services. Whether you are an older Australian (over 65 years of age), or a family member or carer for an older Australian, the My Aged Care website provides detailed information about the type of care packages and funding assistance available. See APA’s My Aged Care document for more information.

Department of Veteran’s Affairs

  • If you are an Australian war veteran, widower, or dependent of a veteran, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs provides a range of health and financial support depending on your circumstances.
  • In terms of healthcare, the department provides three different healthcare cards, classified as Gold, White or Orange, to help cover healthcare costs of veterans and their families. See APA’s Healthcare for Veterans document for more information.

Private Health Insurance

  • Private health insurance is a very important element of Australian healthcare as it ensures that our public healthcare system does not become overwhelmed due to a stretched capacity.
  • The choice to firstly invest in private health insurance, the choice of the specific health insurance company, and the choice of the premium is all very taxing and complicated processes for many Australians. However, the benefit of investing in private health insurance is the ability for patients to access allied health services and be able to claim at least part of the costs through rebates. This is built into most insurance policies under the Extra covers section.
  • It is advised all patients do some thorough research into a good number of private health insurer companies and look at the sorts of policies each company offers whilst keeping in mind the specific allied health services you want to be able to access with financial assistance. See APA’s Private Health Insurance document for more information.

Primary Health Networks

  • Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are independent organisations funded by the Federal Government that have been established to help manage and coordinate primary healthcare services. There are 31 PHNs in Australia, all of which play an important role in tailoring primary care services to their specific community.
  • PHNs work closely with allied health providers and have a particular focus on improving access and equity within the community for mental health services through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program. This program allows patients access to a maximum of 12 ATAPS-funded mental health-related sessions per calendar year. Patients who are eligible are those who have limited access to these services due to their geographical isolation, inability to pay service fees, or at risk of homelessness.

Community Health Services

  • There are many community health centres set up within each state and territory in Australia that provide university primary healthcare to the population, with a particular focus on targeting vulnerable population groups with specific services.
  • These community health services receive funding from a range of sources to help deliver allied health services to patients who require financial assistance.

What are the costs of seeing an allied health professional?

  • As you may expect, the costs of seeing an allied health professional range broadly depending on the specific service, the practitioner’s fees, the length of appointment as well as the amount of financial assistance available to you from the government.
  • The Federal Government has put in place many different funding schemes to assist patients in accessing a range of services.
  • If you have a GP Management Plan or Team Care Arrangement, you are eligible for a maximum of five allied health services per calendar year. It is at your GP’s discretion whether you should be referred to an allied health service, but remember you always should be playing an active role in your own healthcare and health decision-making with your GP.
  • To receive Medicare-funded services, the allied health professional must be registered with Medicare Australia. Each different allied health service (e.g. audiology, dietetics, physiotherapy) has a specific Medicare item number that can be used by the provider during the payment process and the standard benefit for allied health services is 85%. This means that the Federal Government will reimburse you 85% of the service when which therefore means you only have to pay 15% of the service out-of-pocket.
  • See below for each allied health service and their provider number. The fee for all these services is $64.80 but the Medicare rebate is 85% as stated above. This means the Federal Government pays $55.10 of the service and you only have to pay the remaining 15% which is $9.70. To claim these services, you must have attended the appointment with the allied health professional in a one-to-one setting (not a group session), which can be via Telehealth, and the appointment must be at least 20 minutes in duration.
Item No. Service
10950 Aboriginal Health Workers or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners
10952 Audiologists
10964 Chiropractors
10951 Diabetes Educators
10954 Dieticians
10953 Exercise Physiologists
10956 Mental Health Workers
10958 Occupational Therapists
10966 Osteopaths
10960 Physiotherapists
10962 Podiatrists
10968 Psychologists
10970 Speech Pathologists