Telehealth changes cut some off
Healthcare providers are concerned for the future of Medicare-backed telehealth.
Changes have come into effect today that mean patients will no longer be able to access subsidised telephone and video appointments if they do not already have an existing relationship with that medical practice or provider.
The changes do not apply to specialist and allied health consultations, and there are also exemptions for people living under stage three COVID-19 restrictions, infants under 12 months and people experiencing homelessness.
The changes are intended to push patients into continuous care from a regular GP or medical practice. However, they do not provide for the less frequent use of some services.
Dr Bruce Willet from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says up to 30 per cent of patient matters can be dealt with in a telehealth consultation.
“GPs are pushing hard to allow it to continue because I think it has provided a much better service to patients and access to patients who would otherwise struggle to get to the doctor,” Dr Willet says.
“There are people, with disabilities particularly, that often do struggle to make it to the doctor and has certainly made things a lot easier.
“A lot of my patients with disabilities have really really valued this service.”
Marie Stopes Australia is a national reproductive health clinic which provides contraceptive services, vasectomies and medical abortions across Australia. Its managing director, Jamal Hakim, says people do not always want to talk about these matters with their regular GP.
“From next week that access to telehealth services, when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, will stop and from September we have no clarity around what's happening with telehealth services,” Mr Hakim has told the ABC.
“This pandemic has turned all our lives upside down, and that includes reproductive health.
“Surprise, surprise, people are still having sex, people are still having STIs and people are still having unplanned pregnancies."
“Telehealth is really critical in that space and people still need that specialist help.”
The Federal Government says the limited telehealth scheme that took effect this week will remain in place until September 30.
The future is unclear after that.