Did you know it’s possible to call your psychologist for a session? Or have a video chat with your physio to check on that sore knee? Or get important advice from a health provider who you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach?
This is the basic idea behind telehealth. It’s the method of delivering health care through a phone call or videoconference.
COVID-19 and social distancing have brought with them some changes, including telehealth becoming more widely available. Just as we don’t know how long social distancing will last, we don’t know yet if telehealth will become part of our new normal.
The word telehealth sounds official, but it’s actually not. It’s not an organisation or a government scheme, just a method of delivery.
The Department of Health defines telehealth as “the use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance.”
In plain English, this means providing health care or health education through phone or video.
Depending on the situation, telehealth can encompass diagnosis, treatment, and preventive (educational) aspects of healthcare services.
As for what specific services are available through telehealth – that’s largely up to the providers themselves.
Healthcare providers aren’t required to provide telehealth consultations. It’s totally up to them whether they offer telehealth services.
The official part is that, just like an in-person appointment, telehealth consultations are subject to regulations from your health professionals and from the Australian government. These treatments are part of the system.
This means that in some cases, telehealth consultations can be covered by Medicare or Private Health Insurance.
Just like an in-person appointment, the booking process is up to your health provider. Contact your provider to find out if they offer telehealth. They will decide if it would be a good fit for your individual health needs, and instruct you on how to book.
A telehealth appointment is a lot like an in-person appointment, but you’ll see the provider on a screen or speak to them on the phone from the comfort of your own home.
If you’re booking a videoconference, you will need a smartphone, tablet or computer that is video capable. If you have questions about this part, just ask your provider.
There’s a long list of services that can be delivered by telehealth.
General medicine, mental health, paediatrics, cancer services, preparation for childbirth – the list goes on and on.
But what’s really available to you depends on providers. With the exception of hands-on services (you can’t get a massage through your phone, unfortunately), it is generally worth checking to see if you can find the treatment you need.
Now for another big question: what telehealth services can I get covered for?
For people in remote areas or aged care facilities, and in some other circumstances, Medicare can help cover the cost of some telehealth treatments.
Private health cover can help pay for telehealth treatment, too. Coverage will depend on who you’re insured with.
Medical Home covers telehealth for a number of services including psychology, physio, nutrition, and occupational therapy and much much more.
Just like claiming on face-to-face treatments, the way you claim will depend on your health fund or direct payment from your own money.
There will be more choices for this in a near future but as for now you either pay direct with your credit card or you can get an invoice from Medical Home with 10 days to pay it from your bank or any payment services in your city.
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