Growing up with the internet means we’ve effectively been online for years — but it’s nothing compared to how we’ve been online for the past year.
You may not recall this, but the federal government actually injected billions of dollars into our healthcare system to allow us to book a phone consult or video conference appointment — and this paid off.
According to the ABC, more than 54 million telehealth services were completed between March 13 2020, and March 31 of this year as 13.5 million patients took advantage of the scheme.
If you’re not one of the above 13.5 million people and are wondering how does telehealth even work, it’s pretty simple — you just call up your health provider and organise an appointment as you usually would. Use your phone or computer when the appointment time comes.
The telehealth program was originally set to conclude at the end of June — much to the displeasure of medical specialists — but late yesterday evening it was announced that the federal government will be extending financial support for telehealth services until the end of the year, December 31, 2021.
This extension is welcomed by one of our writers, Laura Roscioli, who experienced the pain of face-to-face appointments before the extension was announced. She had a “terrible flu” last week and made attempts to call her doctor in the hope of securing an appointment, but was told she’d have to come in “as Telehealth appointments weren’t being bulk-billed anymore.”
The thing is, even with a negative COVID test, flu symptoms were still present — “And many medical centres still operate with a policy of not being able to come into the surgery with symptoms,” explains Roscioli.
Questioning what to do, she eventually found a surgery that was okay with her coming in, “but it took two days of ringing around.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “The extensions will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home.”
No word on exactly how much this extension will cost, but it seems that a figure will be outlined in the Budget, released in May.
Some medical professionals, particularly those in the mental health field, would like to see extended telehealth options extend even beyond the end of the year, telling the ABC the end cost is the same regardless if by screen or face-to-face.