Telehealth – a new way of health care

To assist all Australians with continued access to essential health care services, the government recently announced the expansion of Medicare-subsidised telehealth services.

Additionally, as part of GMHBA’s COVID-19 member support package, we have introduced new ancillary benefits for a range of telehealth services.

Let’s explore what this means for GMHBA members.  

What is telehealth?

At a basic level, telehealth means using technology such as a phone or a videoconferencing app to conduct an appointment with a health provider such as your general practitioner (GP), physiotherapist or psychologist.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident using an app, telehealth can be as simple as a phone conversation with your practitioner. When you call to make an appointment, you may be offered the option of a telehealth appointment, or a regular appointment in the practice, depending on your health issue and the processes in place at the practice.

But if you are offered the option of using an app you can feel confident that they are easy to use, they just might take a little bit of practice.

Who can use telehealth services?

Anyone can use telehealth services, however there are some conditions that apply to receiving them through Medicare or having them funded through your private health insurance.

It is best to talk to your general practice or practitioner to find out if you’re eligible and contact GMHBA to discuss your health insurance cover in relation to telehealth services, or read our frequently asked questions.

Which health services provide telehealth?

General practice, psychology and some allied health like physiotherapy are all able to deliver telehealth services.

The shift to telehealth was very sudden to keep up with the rapidly moving COVID-19 pandemic, so be patient with your regular health service provider as they work hard to train staff, supply equipment and determine the best method of delivering telehealth services to their patients. Check their website or social media posts, send an email or call to determine if they are ready to deliver via telehealth.

You can also stay up to date with the most recent changes to telehealth services by downloading the consumer fact sheets from the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

How is GMHBA supporting telehealth services?

For GMHBA members we've introduced new ancillary benefits for a range of telehealth services to support continuity of care at home. We are continuing to update and review our benefits for telehealth.

GMHBA was proactive in setting up telehealth services in our two general practices at Lara Medical Centre and South Barwon Medical Centre, and our physiotherapy practice, Geelong Physiotherapy. All these sites offer video or telephone consultations for their patients.

With telehealth services now available, Geelong Physiotherapy can offer appointments to GMHBA members Australia wide. Appointments are available to new and returning patients. Certain conditions apply so please contact GMHBA to discuss your cover in relation to telehealth services or read the FAQ’s on our web page.

When is telehealth a good option?

General practice

For health issues where talking is more important than a physical examination, telehealth is a good choice. A simple guide has been developed as follows:

Telehealth works well for:

  • Chronic disease management – especially where the condition is stable e.g. diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Repeat prescriptions – for medicines used for long term illnesses or contraception
  • Exploring mental health issues
  • Exploring diet and physical activity
  • Writing referral letters

Face to face consultations might be better for:

  • Conditions where the doctor might need to listen to your heart or lungs, feel your abdomen or take your temperature
  • Changing skin or other conditions that need to be seen – a photograph, video call or description may not be enough
  • And procedures – excising skin lesions, taking swabs or smears, inserting long lasting contraception devices or giving injections

If you have chest pain, difficulty breathing or it is a medical emergency please call 000, the ambulance service is still running as normal.

Allied health

Although many people associate allied health modalities such as physiotherapy with ‘hands on treatment’, many injuries and conditions can be effectively managed through education, lifestyle advice, self-management techniques and exercise prescription.

Your practitioner will be able to advise you on the best option to manage your health remotely.

Psychology

The Australian Psychological Society says that individual telehealth consultations with psychologists are well supported by scientific evidence and welcome the opportunity provide much needed psychological care remotely.

Talk to your current psychologist or your GP to find out how to access telehealth psychology services and if it is appropriate for your situation.

Will I have to pay more for telehealth?

No. The cost should not be more than what your normally pay but ask your health care provider about fees and charges for telehealth services.

GMHBA’s physiotherapy practice, Geelong Physiotherapy, is offering a reduced rate for telehealth physiotherapy appointments.