Aus Govt ramps up telehealth services

Aus Govt ramps up telehealth services

The Australian Government has delivered a major funding boost for telehealth services, enabling more Australians to consult with their GP and medical practitioners via videoconferencing.

Through the new telehealth support scheme, Medicare card holders will be able to access bulk-billed telehealth consultations with their doctors and other health professionals without having to pay out-of-pocket costs.

The telehealth package is part of a $1.1 billion funding boost by the Federal Government to support social distancing initiatives in place to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared telehealth a key weapon in the fight against the virus, helping to limit health professionals’ and patients’ potential exposure to the virus.

“[Telehealth services] will take the pressure off hospitals and emergency departments and allow people to access essential health services in their home while supporting self-isolation and quarantine policies,” Morrison said.

Telehealth or telemedicine consultations are virtual appointments that can be done over the phone or through video conferencing services like FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp. Patients dial in and speak to their doctor through a simple audio link or can interact with practitioners through their screens screen.

Among the telehealth arrangements, people can access bulk-billed telehealth consultations for a range of online appointments or consultations.

These consultations can be done with GPs, psychologists, midwives, nurses, psychiatrists, paediatricians, speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists for services for children with developmental delays.

Additionally, people can consult with practitioners managing healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and social workers or dieticians for eating disorders.

The patient can dial in to speak to their doctor, and if a script is required this will be faxed, emailed or posted to them or their pharmacy.

Where people do not have access to phones or internet connections, they can see a doctor for face-to-face consultation, where it is safe to do so.

The Government’s telehealth support is available until 30 September 2020, with plans to review this access later in the year.