What is Telehealth?
In a nutshell, Telehealth is a consultation between a patient and consulting specialist, via video conferencing.
In response to the spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) the Australian Government significantly expanded the Telehealth consultation program. As a result, a large number of practitioners who have previously not had experience with Telehealth consultations are now able to use this service to consult to patients.
Here at SwiftDoc we’ve been using a Telehealth-style model of consultation for quite a while now. Because we believe it is the way of the future, we’ve taken it that one step further by developing our own app. That means:
- Better control over security – we know how we obtain and store data,
- Easier to use – make appointments, manage bookings, choose practitioners and more in one easy-to-navigate app.
- Fast and reliable – we’re so used to working this way that we’ve streamlined everything – easy booking, easy billing and on-time appointments.
- Convenient – we knew when we started SwiftDoc that flexibility is key. That’s why we offer appointments after hours, on the weekends and on public holidays.
What can currently be covered by Telehealth in Australia?
On 29 March 2020, the Australian Government announced an expansion of Medicare-subsidised Telehealth services for all Australians and the provision of extra incentives to GPs and other health practitioners.
The goal of this policy is to provide continued access to primary health services during COVID-19 pandemic.
- GP services
- Some consultation services provided by other medical specialists
- Nurse practitioners
- Mental health treatment
- Chronic disease management
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments
- Services to people with eating disorders
- Pregnancy support counselling
- Services to patients in aged care facilities
- Children with autism
- After-hours consultations.
From 8am on Monday 30 March, the Government also doubled the bulk billing incentive for GPs (for both face-to-face and telehealth services during the course of the COVID-19 response).
These measures take effect on Monday 30 March 2020 and at this stage are in place until 30 September 2020.
So for you, the patient, you can now access a greater range of services via Telehealth, and many of these services are currently bulk-billed through Medicare.
A full and up to date list of services covered by temporary MBS Telehealth items can be found here.
Things to remember and consider when using Telehealth as a patient
The expansion of Telehealth during the COVID-19 crisis has occurred quite quickly, so it has been a learning curve for a lot of patients and medical practitioners alike who are unfamiliar with the process. But the main things to consider as a patient are:
Is the platform I’m having my consult on secure?
Currently providers can host sessions via Zoom, Skype, Facetime and other similar platforms, which all have varying levels of security, so it is worth asking which platform they are using and if they have investigated the level of security. (Here at SwiftDoc we don’t use these, but rather use our App so we can be assured of top notch security).
Do I need a referral?
Yes, for any services where you need a valid referral to attend in person, you’ll also need a valid referral to attend online (or SwiftDoc GPs can arrange specialist referrals for you).
Can I still use my preferred pharmacy/pathologist?
Yes, absolutely. With SwiftDoc’s services, we can send your prescription directly to your preferred pharmacist and you can still obtain all your usual pathology and diagnostic testing through your preferred providers. Other providers may also offer this service, although it will differ across providers depending on what they have been able to set up in their own practice during these busy times.
This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately dial Triple 0 (000).