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Telehealth – What is it, and how can I use it?

03 Apr 2020 by Hannah Heather
Telehealth – What is it, and how can I use it?

If you’re concerned about exposing yourself and your family to COVID-19 but require a check-in with your doctor, Australian’s are now able to access Telehealth from home, via phone or video call, for a wide range of medical services, and it’s all bulk billed through Medicare!

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow, physical distancing measures mean that as a society, we’ve quickly had to adapt to virtual connectivity and the realities of an online existence. And as people continue to fear for their health, Telehealth has been created as a way to continue to combat the need for people to leave their homes, whilst providing access to essential medical services.

Speak to a GP from the comfort of your sofa!

As a result, the Federal Government has announced that Australians will be able to access a range of virtual medical services under the Telehealth program from the comfort of their sofa. And, thanks to the Medicare system, it won’t cost you a cent, whilst providing patients the chance to connect with doctors, guide patients through certain parts of examinations and help support them during this period of uncertainty.

The Telehealth system works by allowing patients to book in, as they normally would with their doctor, but instead of showing up for the appointment at the allocated time, they instead use video calls to chat through a patient’s concerns, rashes, lumps and bumps to help determine a treatment that may be required.

But who can use it?

As of this week, the Australian Federal Government has invested $1.1 billion into the program, so that anyone with a valid Medicare card, be currently in Australia and not in hospital can be eligible for the program.

Anyone with a valid Medicare card, be currently in Australia and not in hospital can be eligible for the program.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt explained the purpose of the scheme, “To provide continued access to essential primary health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government is expanding Medicare-subsidised Telehealth services for all Australians and providing extra incentives to general practitioners and other health practitioners.”

What can I use Telehealth for?

Telehealth covers a wide variety of health sector services. In addition to your General Practitioner (GP) you can also access your midwife, nurse, paediatrician, and speech pathologist through a simple video or phone call, avoiding those in-person appointments.

You can consult your doctor virtually for the following:

 

  • To get advice/manage a chronic disease (especially for conditions that are mostly steady) such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes
  • To get repeat prescriptions for long-standing health conditions or contraceptive medicine
  • For referral letters
  • To get advice on diet and physical activity
  • For pregnancy support counselling
  • For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments

 

Furthermore, Telehealth allows access to online counselling services, psychiatrists and psychologists for mental health and eating disorder sufferers

While Telehealth is helping to ease the load on medical professionals during this period of uncertainty, there are certainly conditions that are better managed with in-person appointments. Some of these are listed below, however if you are unsure, it is best to give your GP a ring to discuss.

  • For cases where the doctor needs to physically listen to your heart or lungs, examine your body or assess your temperature (especially if you don’t own a thermometer).
  • For skin conditions or changing health conditions where a photograph or description of the issue will not be sufficient.
  • For physical procedures such as taking swabs, inserting contraceptive tools, vaccinations, blood tests, taking smears and extracting skin lesions.

How can I book my Telehealth appointment?

Since it’s such a new government imitative, it’s best to call your local clinic to enquire as to whether this is a program they are offering.

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