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Background: Internationally, health care services are under increasing pressure to provide high quality, accessible, timely interventions to an ever increasing aging population, with finite resources. Extended scope roles for allied health professionals is one strategy that could be undertaken by health care services to meet this demand. This review builds upon an earlier paper published in 2006 on the evidence relating to the impact extended scope roles have on health care services.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature focused on extended scope roles in three allied health professional groups, ie, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech pathology, was conducted. The search strategy mirrored an earlier systematic review methodology and was designed to include articles from 2005 onwards. All peer-reviewed published papers with evidence relating to effects on patients, other professionals, or the health service were included. All papers were critically appraised prior to data extraction.
Results: A total of 1,000 articles were identified by the search strategy; 254 articles were screened for relevance and 21 progressed to data extraction for inclusion in the systematic review.
Conclusion: Literature supporting extended scope roles exists; however, despite the earlier review calling for more robust evaluations regarding the impact on patient outcomes, cost-effectiveness, training requirements, niche identification, or sustainability, there appears to be limited research reported on the topic in the last 7 years. The evidence available suggests that extended scope practice allied health practitioners could be a cost-effective and consumer-accepted investment that health services can make to improve patient outcomes.