Navigating Telehealth

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

You may have heard in the news that the Federal Government has added to the ways people can visit their GP or health professionals by using telehealth. These changes are a result of the challenges we face moving in the community due to Covid-19.

You may be wondering telehealth is? When you would need it? And how you can access it?

What is telehealth?

If you have a Medicare card you are eligible for telehealth. It means you can still have a visit with your GP, psychologist and other health providers without leaving your home. The visit is held using either:

  • An online program like Zoom
  • Facetime
  • WhatsApp
  • Over the phone

The choice is yours based on the technology you have in your home. It is similar to a face-to-face visit; an appointment time is made and your visit is private. The only difference is you are sitting in the different rooms. Billing is through Medicare and at this stage all visits will be bulk-billed.

Telehealth visits are best suited when you don’t need a physical examination.

When would you need a telehealth visit?

The Federal Government and the Department of Health are encouraging eligible health professionals to offer telehealth visits. It is a great option if you are on home quarantine, unable to leave your home or you can’t attend a service that has stopped seeing people in their office.

Telehealth appointments can be suitable if you need:

  • A routine visit to review your diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Repeat prescriptions for medicines
  • Exploring mental health issues
  • Discussing food choices and physical activity
  • The writing of referral letters
  • General problems when you doctor doesn’t need to see you in person.

They may not be suitable if you need your GP to:

  • Listen to your heart
  • Feel your tummy
  • Check your skin
  • Collect a sample of your blood or skin.

Diabetes education and management is also now available. You can still see a diabetes educator, dietitian, exercise physiologist or psychologist.


How to access services?

Firstly, you will need to check your GP practice is offering telehealth appointments.

If you want to see a diabetes educator, dietitian, exercise physiologist or psychologist there a couple of extra steps. You will need to talk to you GP for a referral. Your GP will need to complete a Chronic Disease Management plan and Team Care Arrangement for your five Medicare funded visits with the health professional you wish to see. You may already have these. If you already have a plan for a service you are unable to access, such as the podiatrist, your GP can change the visits to another health professional.

Once you have this, you just need to make an appointment.

Remember, you can call the NDSS Helpline 1800 637 700 if you need more information about this process.

Medicare has previously been very strict about only funding visits when they happen face-to-face. The shift to funding telehealth has been because of the coronavirus pandemic. At this stage, the government is promising telehealth funding until September 30, 2020.

When you are booking your next appointment, ask about a telehealth as it may be an option that suits you.


Angela Blair, Credentialled Diabetes Educator

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