TELEHEALTH: What’s does the move to telehealth mean for you and your family? Picture: Keri Megelus
TELEHEALTH: What’s does the move to telehealth mean for you and your family? Picture: Keri Megelus

Chinchilla doctor surgeries move to telehealth

FROM Monday, March 30, Chinchilla residents will be able to access bulk-billed telehealth consultations for the next six months - freeing up waiting rooms and reducing the likelihood of patients being exposed to coronavirus.

Patients will have the option of virtual appointments conducted over video conferencing services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Zoom – as well as over the phone consultations.

A statement released by the Department of Health said telehealth services will allow people to access essential health services in their home while they undergo self-isolation or quarantine to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable people in the community.

“People in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 can see any eligible health provider through new telehealth items,” the statement read.

“Patients in vulnerable groups can additionally see a health provider via telehealth for a non-COVID-19 matter if they have seen that provider, or another provider within the same practice, face-to-face at least once in the previous 12 months.

“All services provided using the new Medicare Benefits Schedule items must be bulk billed.

“The services will be available until 30 September 2020.”

The National Rural Health Alliance, the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia, welcomed the Australian Government’s expansion of telehealth services.

The National Rural Health Alliance CEO Dr Gabrielle O’Kane said Australians will now be able to access a much wider range of bulk-billed health services from the comfort of their own home.

“Telehealth is an especially important tool for health practitioners in rural Australia because patients are often so far away from the practitioner. It also helps to boost the workforce in rural areas when a practitioner can run telehealth consultations from somewhere else,” Dr O’Kane said.

“We still want to make sure that people in rural Australia actually have access to quality broadband so that they can actually access telehealth when they need to.

“This includes improving connectivity but also making sure that services are affordable. We welcome NBN Co’s announcement that they will provide extra data and unmetered services for those on the Sky Muster satellite, but still believe there is more to be done to help rural Australians.”

The Department of Health said telehealth services should be used by the following patients:

  • People isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner or in accordance with home isolation guidance.
  • People who meet the testing guidelines for COVID-19
  • People aged over 70
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50
  • People with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised
  • Parents with new babies and people who are pregnant

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