In a statement to mark World Arthritis Day, Professor Kim Bennell, a member of the APA and Working Group chair of the National Osteoarthritis Strategy Project Group, said the care provided to many sufferers was fragmented and inappropriate.
“The reality is that people with these conditions often suffer chronic, persistent pain which affects their mental health, their ability to work and socialise, and can lead to overuse of pain killers," he said.
"If these conditions are not identified and treated promptly, they can become substantially more disabling over time.”
Research had shown that digital health solutions, like video consultation, could serve as viable options for providing physiotherapy treatment, and could help improve access to, and uptake of, this evidence-based, non-surgical care as well as support ongoing self-management, the statement said.
But video consultations between patients and physiotherapists were not subsidised by the Medicare Benefits Schedule and private health insurance, Professor Bennell pointed out.
"The current requirement for face-to-face consultation with a physiotherapist could act as a barrier to ongoing care for some, particularly those who live remotely and/or have significant mobility issues, as well as those who have competing care priorities, such as parenting, which take precedence over travelling to treatment."
APA national president Phil Calvert said the health system needed "to align with the evidence, and we are seeing more and more credible data that shows digital health options work, and increasingly more Australians are requesting it as part of their health treatment plans".
Professor Bennell said: “While there is no cure for arthritis, physiotherapy offers consumers management techniques which can make life easier. Further, the evidence-base for video consultations is rapidly expanding, and should be part of the overall solution for managing this debilitating condition.
“With osteoarthritis expected to double to 25% of the population by 2040 as a result of ageing and the obesity epidemic, it’s really important that our health system offers options that support consumer management and education in a variety of ways.”