During a press conference today, Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed Australia is now enabling a more modern method of health care.
Hunt announced that “We are moving to what is call whole of population telehealth”. This means doctors will be able to consult with patients remotely, online or via the phone and be able to get paid for those consults through Medicare.
Until a week ago, remote consults weren’t funded through the Medicare system. Given the current situation with coronavirus, it is often unsafe for people to present to a doctor’s surgery and be in proximity to other patients and medical staff.
This move enables two benefits:
- Those who need face-to-face treatment, are able to get it
- It protects those healthcare workers we need the most.
The advice for those who have upcoming medical appointments is to check (I’d suggest emailing), if you’re able to do it via telehealth instead. While many health-related things can be discussed verbally, there are also plenty of things that need observation. This means you’ll likely need a camera (in your laptop, or phone) and suddenly your doctor now needs IT skills to help patients navigate this.
It’d be helpful if all doctors used a single platform, but inevitably, a mix of platforms will be used. Most video conferencing options allow users to participate by simply clicking a link and opening it in a HTML5-capable browser (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari). This gives the whole thing a universality, rather than require app installations at the user end.
Remote healthcare is one of those changes to society that hopefully sticks around after coronavirus is long forgotten. Personally I really only head to the doctor when something is wrong, but if remote checkups were possible, I’d probably schedule one in each year.
Remote health care was supposed to be one of the biggest benefits of the NBN rollout across Australia.
Doctors are also businesses, and without the financial regulations being unlocked, no doctor would choose to offer remote appointments. Thankfully common sense has prevailed and this is now enabled.
Hopefully, this can be a step in the digitisation of all things medical and eliminate the need for anyone to read doctor’s handwriting.