You might have come across the term ‘allied health’, or ‘allied health professional’. But who are these people and what do they do?
Knowing about allied healthcare services, and how they might help, can make a lot of difference to your health.
What are allied health professionals?
Allied health practitioners are healthcare professionals who are not nurses, midwives, doctors, or dentists.
Allied health professions are regulated (managed) either through:
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
- or are self-regulated through the relevant professional organisation
Allied health professionals can help you take care of your physical or mental health. They provide services that can include diagnosis, treatment, or rehabilitation.
Below is a list of allied health professions.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners give culturally safe clinical services. They are important to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They are employed by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector and mainstream health services.
Art therapists use visual arts to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Drama, dance, and movement can all be used in this therapy.
Audiologists can help you with hearing loss and balance problems.
Chinese medicine practitioners can offer services including acupuncture, tai chi, qi gong and herbal medicines.
Chiropractors diagnose, treat and prevent mechanical problems with the musculoskeletal system (muscles, ligaments, bone and joints).
Diabetes educators are healthcare professionals who support people to control their diabetes.
Dietitians help you to understand the relationship between the food you eat and your health. They also help you change your diet so that you can become healthier.
Exercise physiologists help control and stop disease and injury. They help to restore your best physical function, health, or wellness.
Genetic counsellors teach people about genetic conditions. This includes emotional and practical support to help people live with a genetic condition.
Music therapists use music and music-making to help people to improve their health and wellbeing.
Occupational therapists give help to people whose health or disability makes it hard for them to do everyday tasks.
Optometrists are experts in eye health. They can prescribe spectacles and contact lenses. They can also help treat eye conditions such as dry eye, and eye infections.
Orthoptists diagnose and treat eye conditions. They specialise in children’s vision, eye movement disorders and low vision care.
Orthotists/prosthetists supply splints, braces, or artificial limbs to help improve mobility and independence.
Osteopaths give manual therapy to improve movement and decrease pain. These can include exercise, needling, and lifestyle advice.
Perfusionists operate heart-lung bypass machines during heart surgery.
Pharmacists dispense medicines and give advice on how to take your medicines.
Physiotherapists use techniques to improve your movement, decrease pain and stiffness and manage the function of your muscles.
Podiatrists are experts in foot, ankle, and lower leg health.
Psychologists help us to understand why we think, feel, behave, and react the way we do. Psychologists are different from psychiatrists. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (NOT an allied health professional).
Radiographers take x-rays, scans and other medical images. Radiographers are different from radiologists. A radiologist is a medical doctor (NOT an allied health professional) who interprets the findings of your scans.
Rehabilitation counsellors support people with a disability, illness, or injury to achieve employment, volunteer or study goals.
Social workers help people to face life's challenges by giving counselling, information, and connection to other services.
Sonographers carry out examinations using ultrasound (sonography).
Speech pathologists help you if you have problems with your speech, language, communication or swallowing, eating and drinking.
How do I arrange to see an allied health professional?
Depending on the allied health professional that you want to see, you might need a referral from your doctor.
Talk with your doctor to help you decide if an allied health service is right for you. Try to be open and honest about your needs.
How do I find an allied health professional?
Your doctor can refer you to an allied health professional. You can also get advice from your friends and family.
The National Health Services Directory lists allied health professionals and other health services.
Some allied health professionals must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to practise in Australia. Others should be registered with their relevant professional organisation.
What can I expect when I visit an allied health professional?
When you visit an allied health professional, they will ask you questions about your health. They might also examine you.
Your treatment will depend on your healthcare needs and your stage of life.
It’s a good idea to take to your appointment a list of your:
- other treatments
You can also take a list of your questions. You can ask your allied health practitioner questions such as:
- What are the best options for me?
- How long will I need to see you until things get better?
- Will you let my doctor know what is happening here?
Once you’ve been for the first visit, you can decide whether they understand the reason you are there. And whether they can help you in a way that suits you.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
Does Medicare cover the costs of allied health services?
Medicare only covers the cost of some visits to allied health professionals. This depends on your condition.
You may be able to get some money towards the cost of your appointment if:
- you have a chronic disease
- you need mental health support
- you have a young child with an eligible disability
- you have a child with autism
In these cases, your doctor must prepare a ‘care plan’ for you.
It’s a good idea to ask about any costs before you make your appointment.
Some private health insurance funds will cover the costs of allied health services. If you have private health insurance, check what is covered before you make your appointment.
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Last reviewed: August 2022