Open Access Research article

A systematic review of the unit costs of allied health and community services used by older people in Australia

Inez Farag1*, Cathie Sherrington1, Manuela Ferreira1 and Kirsten Howard2

Author affiliations

1 George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, 321 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

2 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:69  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-69

Published: 20 February 2013



An economic evaluation of interventions for older people requires accurate assessment of costing and consideration of both acute and long-term services. Accurate information on the unit cost of allied health and community services is not readily available in Australia however. This systematic review therefore aims to synthesise information available in the literature on the unit costs of allied health and community services that may be utilised by an older person living in Australia.


A comprehensive search of Medline, Embase, CINAHL, Google Scholar and Google was undertaken. Specialised economic databases were also reviewed. In addition Australian Government Department websites were inspected. The search identified the cost of specified allied health services including: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, podiatry, counselling and home nursing. The range of community services included: personal care, meals on wheels, transport costs and domestic services. Where the information was not available, direct contact with service providers was made.


The number of eligible studies included in the qualitative synthesis was fourty-nine. Calculated hourly rates for Australian allied health services were adjusted to be in equivalent currency and were as follows as follows: physiotherapy $157.75, occupational therapy $150.77, dietetics $163.11, psychological services $165.77, community nursing $105.76 and podiatry $129.72.


Utilisation of the Medicare Benefits Scheduled fee as a broad indicator of the costs of services, may lead to underestimation of the real costs of services and therefore to inaccuracies in economic evaluation.

Unit costs; Allied health services; Community services