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What Is Telehealth Australia?

In Australia’s vast and diverse landscape, accessing medical care has always posed unique challenges, especially for those in remote areas. However, the digital age has ushered in a transformative solution: Telehealth. This innovative approach to healthcare has not only bridged the geographical divide but has also emerged as a crucial tool during global health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Updated: 21 May 2024

Telehealth, or e-health, is a modern approach to healthcare, allowing patients to consult with medical professionals via video conferencing or audio calls over the internet. While initially designed to cater to those in remote areas, its relevance and utility have expanded, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Let’s embark on this journey to understand Telehealth in Australia better.

Key facts

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The Evolution of Telehealth in Australia

The Pre-pandemic Era
Before the onslaught of COVID-19, telehealth services were primarily a boon for those living in remote regions of Australia. These services were essential for individuals who needed specialist consultations but didn’t have immediate access due to geographical constraints. While Medicare offered rebates for such consultations, it was limited in scope.
The COVID-19 Catalyst
The pandemic acted as a significant catalyst, propelling telehealth to the forefront. With restrictions in place and the risk of virus transmission, in-person consultations became challenging. The government responded by increasing funding for telehealth, ensuring that all Australians, irrespective of their location, could access these services. This move also saw an expansion in the services covered by Medicare, encompassing a broader range of consultations.

How Does Telehealth Work?

Telehealth, often referred to as e-health, encompasses a range of healthcare services delivered remotely through digital communication tools. It allows patients to consult with healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and specialists, via video conferencing, audio calls, or other online platforms, eliminating the need for physical presence. Telehealth services can include diagnosis, treatment, preventive healthcare, and even the issuance of prescriptions. 

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Limitations of Telehealth

While telehealth is revolutionary, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Consultations that require physical examinations or immediate tests might not be suitable for this medium. However, studies suggest that up to 80% of GP consultations can be managed online.

How much does it cost?

All Australians with a Medicare card can now access telehealth services from a wide range of professionals without any additional out-of-pocket expenses than a regular face-to-face appointment. The telehealth appointment will also be bulk-billed if a patient is typically bulk-billed at their GP clinic. However, if there’s usually a gap payment, the same will apply to the telehealth consultation.

Claiming on Insurance

Many private health insurance providers have recognised the importance of telehealth, offering coverage for such services. This coverage allows policyholders to claim a telehealth appointment in the same manner as an in-person visit.

For those with Extras Insurance, there’s an added advantage. Many health insurance providers have expanded their coverage to include telehealth services. This coverage allows policyholders to claim their telehealth appointments just as they would for in-person consultations. It’s crucial to check with individual insurance providers to understand the specifics of telehealth coverage.

Check with
your provider

It’s crucial for policyholders to check with their insurance providers to understand the extent of telehealth coverage, any restrictions, and the services included.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Telehealth has emerged as a significant advancement in the healthcare industry, providing patients with the convenience of receiving medical consultations from the comfort of their homes. With the help of video conferencing or audio calls, patients can now connect with healthcare professionals regardless of their geographical location.

Telehealth has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially after the onset of the pandemic. Initially designed for remote areas, telehealth has now expanded to cater to all Australians. This has been a welcome development as it allows patients to receive medical care and advice from the comfort of their own homes, avoiding the need to travel to a clinic or hospital.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had to adapt to new ways of providing healthcare services. In Australia, the government recognized the importance of telehealth services in ensuring that people could still receive medical attention while minimizing the risk of infection. As a result, they expanded the Medicare Benefits Scheme to include a wider range of telehealth services.

For those seeking healthcare coverage, it’s important to note that many private health insurance providers now offer coverage for telehealth services. This is great news for those who prefer to receive medical care from the comfort of their own homes. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your specific insurance provider to make sure that the telehealth services you need are covered under your policy.

Although telehealth has proven to be quite effective for many consultations, there are certain situations where it might not be the best option. For instance, if a patient requires a physical examination or immediate tests, it may be necessary to seek in-person medical attention. While telehealth can provide valuable support and guidance, it’s important to understand its limitations and when it’s appropriate to use it.

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Megan has extensive experience writing about health and life insurance in Australia. Megan has a special interest in health and wellness. She relies on her background in counselling psychology to convey the latest findings in a manner that is most beneficial to ComparingExperts readers. In every article she writes, Megan aims to uphold the standards of the Private Health Insurance Intermediaries Association (PHIAA) which ComparingExpert is part of.

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