Cliniko 2021 allied health survey results summary: Part 1

This is what your survey responses told us about daily life – appointments, referrals, Telehealth, and the day to day challenges of running an allied health clinic.

Kate Hunter·

An illustration of calendars, telehealth, treatment notes with a cup of tea.

Our survey results are in! Last year, we created a survey about the allied health industry and put a general call out to professionals to participate — with an amazing response from you! A whopping 2,654 people from all over the world volunteered their time to answer our questions and in doing so raised $AUD 53,080 for charity. We’ve been so grateful for all the information you shared with us. We’ll be breaking down your responses in more detail and doing some deep dives into the data over the coming months, but first up, we wanted to give you a summary of what we found.

Why we did this survey

The survey questions were circulated between June and July 2021, as part of celebrating Cliniko’s tenth birthday. We wanted to better understand the allied health industry, what it’s like to work in the space, and the unique challenges you’re facing today.

It’s not uncommon for surveys to focus on individual professions, but we were also keen to ask questions that gave us the big picture of what’s happening across the allied health industry as a whole – what issues are important for allied health practitioners as a group?

Who participated

Although the majority of respondents were based in either Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or Canada, this survey had genuinely international participation. We received responses from practitioners, administrators, marketers, business owners and other professionals working with allied health businesses in a whole range of diverse countries all around the globe, including: Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, China, Cyprus, Ghana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and Zimbabwe.

The survey also received responses from a wide spectrum of different allied health professions. We had particularly strong participation from physiotherapists, osteopaths, podiatrists, myotherapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech pathologists. But many different allied health practitioners and therapists responded — from aromatherapists to phlebologists.

We didn’t want to completely swamp you with data, so we’ve broken our survey summary into two parts. This first part focuses on daily life in allied health. The second addresses the business side of things (salaries, employment and career goals).

What we learned about your day-to-day life as an allied health professional

Allied health professionals are wearing many hats

The average allied health business (excluding solo operators) has

  • 3.3 practitioners
  • 2 administrators (including reception)
  • 1.5 outsourced roles (such as marketing or IT services)
  • 1 practice manager
  • 1 bookkeeper

But when you’re not seeing your patients, you’re often juggling many other roles in your clinic:

  • 24% of you do not employ any administrators
  • 46% do not employ a bookkeeper
  • 65% do not outsource any roles (such as marketing or IT)
  • 65% do not employ a practice manager

Although these figures vary by how many practitioners are working at a clinic, they show that a majority of you are doing a lot of additional work beyond patient care. You’re a hardworking, multi-tasking bunch!

When it comes to solo practitioners, a huge 53% are doing it all themselves while the remaining 47% outsource at least one role.

Time management is a big challenge for many practitioners and business owners

Finding enough time in the day is a key difficulty for many of you. Of the main challenges you report, 23.3% of them are directly time related. When it comes to what you see as the biggest hurdle you’re facing:

  • 11.4% of you say you’re struggling to find the time to complete admin specifically
  • 6% report a general sense of not having enough time
  • 5.9% cite an inability to meet patient demand

Admin has plenty of challenges of its own – letter writing, contacting patients outside appointments, and new patient intake are your most common pet peeves when it comes to your office tasks (25%, 21%, and 18% of you respectively report these as your main bugbears).

Bar chart of admin tasks allied health professionals would like to spend less time on
Bar chart of challenges faced by allied health professionals

Patient word of mouth is essential for most practices

Your existing patients overwhelmingly provide the most new referrals to your clinic. Depending on your profession, up to 43% of new patient referrals are generated this way. Only three professions are exceptions to this and still rely on GPs or other health providers for the majority of their new referrals:

  • 44% of referrals for occupational therapists are obtained this way
  • 35% of referrals for psychologists
  • 34% of referrals for speech pathologists
Graph of how allied health practices by profession find new clients

How many appointments a patient needs will vary drastically between allied health professions

The average number of appointments that a patient requires to resolve a healthcare issue varies significantly depending on what kind of allied health practitioner they come to see. The average number of times a patient will come in generally ranges from 3 to 8 appointments but this is very profession specific – as is the proportion of cases requiring ongoing maintenance and care.

  • Acupuncturists report 21% of clients average 6 appointments to resolve complaints while 21% of cases are case dependent.
  • Chiropractors report that 53% of clients have their needs met in 4-8 treatments. 12% are case dependent.
  • Massage therapists report that 42% of clients have their issue resolved in 3-4 treatments and 13% require ongoing maintenance/care.
  • Myotherapists also report 42% of their clients requiring an average of 3-4 treatments to resolve an issue while 15% are case dependent.
  • Naturopaths report that 40% of clients have their needs met in 3-4 treatments, 6% require ongoing maintenance appointments
  • Nutritionists report 68% of clients have their needs met in 3-6 treatments.
  • Occupational therapists report that 13% of patients will average 8 appointments for resolve a patient’s needs while 22% will require ongoing maintenance and care.
  • Osteopaths report that 51% of patients require an average of 3-4 treatments to resolve a physical complaint while 24% need 5-6 treatments.
  • Physiotherapists report that 68% of clients average 4-6 appointments to resolve their complaint.
  • Podiatrists report an average of 3-4 appointments are required to resolve acute needs and 16% of clients require ongoing maintenance.
  • Psychologists report 33% of patients engage with them for *8-10 appointments while they report that 19% of cases are case dependent.
  • Speech pathologists report that 26% of their patients require ongoing treatment and 21% are case dependent.

(*skewed by Australian Medicare rebate).

Telehealth is here to stay

The pandemic caused a huge increase in Telehealth usage across the globe. Regardless of whether we look at countries or professions, the results are the same – Telehealth is likely to be a key part of future practice. If you were already using Telehealth before the pandemic, at a minimum your usage has doubled over the last couple of years, increasing:

  • 2.6x in Australia
  • 5.4x in the UK
  • 3.3x in New Zealand
  • 2.2x in Canada

But even if you weren’t using Telehealth previously, you’re likely to have been won over – between 60% and 85% (depending on the country) of new users will continue using it in future.

Graph of allied health telehealth use prior to Covid-19 pandemic
Graph of allied health telehealth use by country
Graph of allied health telehealth use by profession
Graph of the average allied health telehealth appointment times per week

COVID-19 restrictions affected how allied health clinics were able to practise, but most were able to either shift to Telehealth or remain open

  • COVID-19 restrictions meant that a majority of you in New Zealand and Canada (50% and 39% respectively) faced clinic closures and were operating solely with Telehealth.
  • For those of you in Australia, the bulk of clinics (37%) remained open but with reduced capacity.
  • The UK had almost even numbers in both situations (36% open at reduced capacity and 35% closed and using Telehealth).

Only a small number of practices — consistently less than 3% of you worldwide — had to shut your doors for good. Regardless of which country we look at, most clinics were fortunate with staffing — between 36% and 52% of you (a majority across all countries) report that all staff in your practice continued to work across the pandemic.

Graph of how Covid-19 restrictions impacted allied health practices in different countries
Graph of how Covid-19 restrictions impacted employees of allied health practices

That sums up our findings for Part 1 of the survey. Head on over to Part 2 of our allied health survey to read everything related to the business side of working in allied health care.

Author information

Kate is our resident capsicum disliking, dog loving, former photographer who has a penchant for pinot noir and whisky (not together). Follow her on Twitter @huntbyday.

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