COVID-19 has changed the way services operate in a number of industries and health is no exception. The implementation of social distancing rules, as well as fear of the virus, have made people wary of visiting medical facilities.
As a result, we have seen the rise of telehealth services across the country. Thinking about using telehealth services or want to know more? Here’s the lowdown on telehealth in Australia.
What is telehealth?
It might seem new, but telehealth has been available in Australia for a number of years, with the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increasing demand for the service. Telehealth is a virtual service that allows people to consult with healthcare professionals remotely. This is done either via telephone, video conferencing or other communication technologies.
The aim of telehealth is to continue delivering healthcare services to people who can’t be in physical contact with their healthcare provider.
What can you use it for?
Telehealth can be used to substitute a range of services that you might normally make an in-person visit to your GP for. This includes things like remote monitoring devices, prescriptions, referral letters, secure information sharing of medical details and routine chronic disease management.
Some specialist services can also be accessed via telehealth. These include telemedicine, telepsychiatry, teleobstetrics and telepathology to name a few.
Remember, while many services can be accessed through telehealth, there will still be things that require an in-person visit. Injections, swabs and smears, and physical examinations that require a thermometer or stethoscope, are impossible over the Internet, and typically need to be done in person.
But the ultimate goal of telehealth is to limit the number of people attending physical locations in the hope of reducing the spread of COVID-19.
How can you access telehealth services?
The Australian government recently announced a $24 billion plan to fight the spread of COVID-19. As part of this, $100 million has been allocated to fund Medicare telehealth services.
Currently, if you are in isolation due to national COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, video calls to any eligible doctor, nurse or mental health professional will be bulk-billed.
This is also the case if you are classified as being in one of the following vulnerable groups, provided you have had a face-to-face visit with this professional in the last 12 months:
- People over 70
- Indigenous people over 50
- People with chronic conditions or immunocompromised systems
- Parents with new babies
- Pregnant people
Services such as Healthdirect and HealthNow are also available across Australia to help people arrange appointments for telehealth consultations.
Additionally, some health insurers such as Bupa and Medibank Health Solutions are currently offering telehealth services to their members.
If you are not happy with your current level of cover, free online comparison services such as the Finder app can help you find suitable coverage.
Women Love Tech would like to thank Sophie Walsh for her article.