A global survey of allied health professionals has revealed that rapid growth in demand for online podiatry appointments is continuing after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, with more than half of practitioners now offering telehealth services.
Australian practice management software company Cliniko surveyed 2,654 allied health professionals from 34 countries as part of celebrations to mark the company’s tenth anniversary. The majority of responses came from practitioners and administrators in Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, with practices from Asia, Africa and the Middle East also contributing to the project.
Cliniko found the use of telehealth has at least doubled since the outbreak of COVID, with phone and online appointments now 5.4 times more popular in the UK and 2.6 times more common in Australia.
Of relevance, podiatry has become a popular telehealth service, with 51% of practices now offering telephone and online appointments compared to just 4% prior to the outbreak of COVID.
Cliniko founder Joel Friedlaender said the survey shows some of the ways the allied health sector has stayed ahead of the curve, despite the challenges arising during COVID-19.
“The pandemic has changed so much about our lives, including the way we access health care. A lot of people were surprised that professions like podiatry can be effective via telehealth, but the past two years have shifted these perceptions,” Joel Friedlaender said.
The study shows allied health practices have been resilient in the face of massive disruptions, with up to half continuing operating during COVID-19 restrictions despite only being able to offer telehealth services, and less than three per cent closing their doors for good.
A range of insights have been revealed about the allied health sector, revealing the average business employed just over three practitioners. This is demanding practitioners take on a wide range of duties, with one-quarter of businesses not employing any administrators, nearly half not employing a bookkeeper and two thirds not outsourcing any roles.
The data shows that word of mouth is key to growing allied health businesses, accounting for the majority of new referrals to many services. Patient referrals were found to be particularly valuable for podiatrists, with one-third of new clients coming through personal recommendations, compared to 22% through professional referrals.
The study also revealed a high level of ambition amongst the allied health workforce, with more than one-quarter of podiatrists expressing a desire to achieve senior practitioner status.
Despite the challenges arising from the pandemic, the survey insights show that the vast majority of employees are settled in their roles and believe they are well remunerated.
“We know that COVID has placed a lot of additional pressures on healthcare workers, so it’s very positive to learn that so many practitioners have adapted and are still progressing with their work,” Joel said.
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