The Consumers Health Forum applauds Medicare’s decision to extend funding for telehealth consultations for general practitioners, allied health professionals, and specialists by the end of 2021.
The ability to communicate with your health care provider over the phone or via video was a critical step in making continued healthcare better for patients during the pandemic’s early days.
Leanne Wells, CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, said, “This was especially important for people with complicated and chronic illnesses that needed continuing treatment.”
Before the telehealth products were introduced, there was widespread uncertainty and anxiety in the population about the virus’s propagation and virulence, to the point that many people avoided attending to their daily doctor appointments and did not follow up on referrals.
Ms Wells explained, “It makes full use of the technologies we already have.”
“The ongoing goal of telehealth is to modernize Medicare.
“When combined with face-to-face appointments, telehealth advances care and management programs and provides significant benefits,” Ms Wells said.
“It is easy for consumers, and it allows all health care professionals and their patients to understand how telehealth better meets their needs.
“Telehealth also provides an opportunity to accelerate innovative ways of providing health care, drawing on online screening and consultations that are now taking place in rural and other health care settings,” Ms Wells said.
“This ensures that many remote and suburban patients have more access to health services so they can escape the high costs of transport and lodging in major cities.
To boost patient care and overcome connectivity challenges such as unreliable internet and low digital literacy, Australia should engage in digitisation across the healthcare sector.
This investment also necessitates a concerted effort to strike a balance between increasing the reliability of knowledge exchange through networks and creating secure archives where users can be confident that their sensitive information is secured.
We’ll need to have a “global development strategy for digital access and creativity” to do this well.
“As telehealth becomes more commonplace, work on standards and efficiency will become more important.”
Access to high-quality, low-cost telehealth and virtual health care is a continuation of the use of technologies to make healthcare more available and affordable for all consumers.