The importance of allied healthcare in Australia

September 5, 2016

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The increasingly aging population in Australia combined with the acute shortage of qualified healthcare professionals has created a scenario where it is difficult for core medical professionals to give all patients the care and attention they need. Allied healthcare is an emerging and rapidly growing field that serves to resolve this ongoing challenge.

Allied health providers range from therapists and technologists to scientists, managers, administrators and assistants. All of these professionals play a crucial role in the healthcare industry, offering much-needed support to the core healthcare team. Although allied health providers are not qualified physicians, dentists or nurses, they undergo extensive training that allows them to diagnose, prevent and treat health problems in their specific area of expertise.

What do allied health professionals do?

Some of the roles fulfilled by allied health providers may include but are not limited to:

  • Offering different types of rehabilitation services
  • Operating advanced diagnostic equipment
  • Providing critical care support in ICUs
  • Delivering scientific support in clinical laboratories
  • Contributing to broader public health outcomes
  • Illustrating medical textbooks
  • Developing healthy nutrition programs for hospitals and schools

Modern healthcare has become a team venture and allied health professionals are fully integrated members of every team, in outpatient as well as inpatient settings in primary, acute and chronic care. Some allied health providers, such as medical assistants, physiotherapists, and surgical technologists, provide direct patient care, whereas others such as medical coders and pharmacy technicians provide indirect patient care.

Different allied health roles to consider

Physiotherapists: Physiotherapists work one-on-one with patients to help them manage pain and achieve maximum range of movement and functional ability. Most patients who visit a physiotherapist have mobility restrictions brought on by aging, injury or a medical condition.

Occupational Therapists: Occupational therapists help patients develop, recover or improve skills that are essential for daily living and working. This may range from helping children achieve their developmental milestones to helping improve mobility and independence in the elderly or providing specialist interventions for patients after surgery or for those suffering from HIV or acute mental health problems.

Speech & Language Pathology: These allied health providers are dedicated to evaluating and treating communication and swallowing disorders.

Orthotists & Prosthetists: Orthotists and prosthetists evaluate patients’ physical and functional limitations resulting from disabilities, illnesses or injuries, including limb amputations. They prescribe, design and manufacture various types of externally applied devices or prostheses that help individuals overcome their limitations and improve mobility and functionality.

Audiologist: An audiologist specialises in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring hearing and balance disorders. In addition to dispensing hearing aids and recommending and mapping cochlear implants, they also teach patients coping and compensation skills and counsel patients’ families.

Dental Technologist: A member of the dental team, dental technologists construct customised restorative and dental appliances upon prescription from a dental clinician.

Dental Hygienist: Dental hygienists specialise in preventive oral health, typically focusing on teaching patients different techniques to improve oral hygiene.

Respiratory Therapist: These allied health providers specialise in both cardiac and pulmonary care. They diagnose, treat and educate patients suffering from heart and lung problems. These specialists play a major role in actively maintaining an open airway during management of trauma and may also administer anaesthesia for surgery or conscious sedation.

Cardiac Perfusion Technologist: Cardiovascular perfusionists specialise in using the heart-lung machine during any type of cardiac surgery.

Medical Imaging Technologist: Medical imaging technologists use a wide array of highly advanced machines to create sharp images of the human body in order to diagnose or examine diseases.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.