About Us

Our physios get more flexible

"This is a new model of care developed by the team to ensure patients get the right physiotherapy care at the right time and it has been hugely successful."

It is 10.20am. The Austin Hospital Physiotherapy team huddle around a meeting table in the Harold Stokes Building next to a white board covered in names. They are carefully considering the needs of every patient in the hospital and determining which physiotherapist should treat them.

This is a new model of care developed by the team to ensure patients get the right physiotherapy care at the right time and it has been hugely successful - attracting wide interest from other health services.

Associate Professor Sue Berney, manager of Physiotherapy says an ageing population and increasing patient complexity required her team to think outside the square and develop a more responsive and flexible system.

"In the past, patients requiring physiotherapy would receive care from a therapist allocated to their ward. This physiotherapist was responsible for the care of all patients on the ward irrespective of complexity or physiotherapy care needs or the individual physiotherapist's clinical experience."

The Physiotherapy team were juggling everyone: patients requiring rehabilitation with those preparing for discharge as well as managing acutely deteriorating patients. In some cases, they might not have had the best skills to manage some of those patients resulting in extra time taken to deliver the care.

"We now sit down at the start of the day and allocate our patients into three new streams of care based on patients' physiotherapy care needs: acute and deteriorating, early rehabilitation and transition and maintenance," says Assoc Prof Berney. "We allocate clinicians with the right skills to deliver the right care to those patients."

The outstanding results are turning heads: the new model has resulted in the increased allocation of resources to patients most in need of treatment; an estimated increase of 180 patients per year being directly discharged home; a reduction in the sub-acute length of stay by seven per cent creating an estimated additional capacity of 1,420 sub-acute bed days; and a seven per cent reduction in the overall average acute length of stay creating an estimated additional capacity of 6,969 acute bed days per year. There were measurable improvements in the management of high risk patients. Consumer interviews indicate patients are more satisfied with their physiotherapy treatment and staff focus groups have been overwhelmingly positive.

"The aim with all our patients is to return them to their best level of function," says Assoc Prof Berney. "With this model, we are confident we are doing that."


Our physios get more flexible is the June feature story from Austin Health's 2015 Quality of Care Report.