Background: Better understanding of the dynamics and temporal changes in manual therapy service utilisation may assist with healthcare planning and resource allocation. The objectives of this study were to quantify, describe, and compare service utilisation trends in the manual therapy professions within the Australian private healthcare setting between 2008 and 2017.
Methods: Data regarding the number of services, total cost, and benefits paid were extracted for each manual therapy profession (i.e. chiropractic, osteopathy, and physiotherapy) for the period 2008–2017 from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. The number of registered providers for each profession were obtained from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Descriptive statistics were produced for two time periods (i.e. 2008–2012 and 2013–2017) for each manual therapy profession. Annual percentage change during each time period was estimated by fitting Poisson regression models. Test for the equality of regression coefficients was used to compare the trends in the two time periods within each profession, and to compare the trends across professions within a time period.
Results: A cumulative total of 198.6 million manual therapy services with a total cost of $12.8 billion was provided within the Australian private healthcare setting between 2008 and 2017. Although service utilisation and total cost increased throughout the ten-year period, the annual growth was significantly lower during 2013–2017 than 2008–2012. Whereas osteopathy and physiotherapy experienced significant annual growth in the number of services and total cost during 2013–2017, negative growth in the number of services was observed for chiropractic during the same period. The annual number of services per provider declined significantly for chiropractic and physiotherapy between 2013 and 2017.
Conclusion: Service provision under private health insurance general treatment cover constitute a major source of revenue for manual therapy professions in Australia. Although manual therapy service utilisation increased throughout the ten-year period from 2008 to 2017, the annual growth declined. There were diverging trends across the three professions, including significantly greater decline in annual growth for chiropractic than for osteopathy and physiotherapy.
Author keywords: Health services — Cost — Manual therapy — Chiropractic — Osteopathy — Physiotherapy
Author affiliations: RPL: Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; BTB, MSS, RME: Department of Chiropractic, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
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