The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a revolution in social policy that theoretically offers choice and control to people with disabilities by offering them individualised funding packages that are suited to their needs.
While the basic ideas behind the NDIS (choice, control, access, and equity) are an important move forward for Australia, there simply aren’t enough allied health professionals to fulfil the need of individuals accessing the Scheme.
We need to rethink how we can help communities to access allied health supports, and a big part of that solution is technology – online therapy.
Reason 1: The NDIS is here to stay
Whether we like it or not, the NDIS is here to stay, and we need to figure out how we can adapt in order to ensure that we can address thin and failed markets no matter where they are. Using online therapy, we can help key workers in rural and remote communities to support people to access allied health even when no provider exists locally.
Reason 2: 7 million people live in rural, regional, and remote Australia
There are more than 7 million people living in rural, regional, and remote Australia. Many of those people struggle to access quality allied health support in a timely manner. With online therapy, those 7 million people have an instant solution to access barriers and waiting lists that are often in excess of 2 years for local service … that is, of course, if a local service even exists.
Reason 3: Flexibility for clinicians
Online therapy doesn’t only increase access for communities, it increases access for clinicians. Many clinicians move away from their career due to an employer’s lack of flexibility in accommodating various life commitments – illness, disability, travel, children. Working online can remove these barriers, allowing parents to manage work and letting clinicians with physical disabilities continue to practice in an environment that supports their needs.
Reason 4: Support for rural generalists and allied health assistants
Using online therapy means that communities can access advice from specialists and sub-specialists as needed. They can build capacity in generalists to foster best practice, and increase dosage through training allied health assistants in the bush.
Reason 5: The evidence base is growing
The majority of clients using online therapy have the same level of success in therapy as in-person services, and there is comparable quality in the therapeutic alliance between the client and therapist – families in less accessible areas want these services and have found them to be effective in meeting their needs.
So, with a workforce shortage in the bush, a growing number of rural and remote people looking to exercise choice and control through NDIS therapy, and families demanding more flexibility, choice, and control, now’s the time that we need to stop, get online, and listen.