Broadly speaking, telehealth is the combination of healthcare and technology. This could include digital tools you use to access your healthcare from home, or that your doctor or provider uses. Telehealth technologies are used in nearly every area of healthcare, from prevention and education, to diagnosis and treatment.
The overall objective of telehealth is to make healthcare more accessible and efficient. This could happen many different ways, including:
Telehealth includes a broad range of health services, from virtual appointments to apps that let you book appointments. Whether or not telehealth services are covered will depend on exactly the service, and the details of your health insurance policy.
In some cases, telehealth could fall under your extras cover. Examples of extras cover services that may be able to be accessed via telehealth include:
Australia is one of the countries leading the world in digital connectivity. My Health Record is a great example of an online patient portal, which falls under the telehealth umbrella. Other examples of telehealth include:
All telemedicine is telehealth, but not all telehealth is telemedicine. Where telehealth refers broadly to any use of information or communication technologies applied to healthcare, telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to provide care at a distance (a physician in one location using telecommunications to give care to a patient).
Australia’s vast landmass and rugged terrain means for many rural or remote communities, getting centralised health care or specialist treatment can be difficult. Telehealth has paved the way for improved access to healthcare for many Australians. One of the biggest advantages of telehealth is that it gives people access to care they might not normally have.
Telehealth has been crucial throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as many Australians have been able to access non-emergency health services without having to leave their homes. The mass adoption of telehealth could have a long-term impact on the way we access healthcare.
Telehealth can also make it easier to access a specialist, speeding up diagnosis and treatment.
Here are just a few ways you might be able to use telehealth for in your everyday life:
While telehealth has the potential to make healthcare more efficient and accessible, there are a few drawbacks. For starters, telehealth can often be expensive to set up since it usually includes computers and other technology. For that reason, smaller health care facilities or those with less funding may not be able to fully take advantage of the benefits of telehealth.
Some people also would prefer to see a doctor in-person. And, of course, there are certain types of illnesses and diagnoses that require a face-to-face visit.
There are many telehealth services you may be able to take advantage of, ranging from aged care and rehabilitation to mental health services to some aspects of general medicine.
Depending on where in Australia you live and other factors, there are also telehealth services that fall under Medicare.
A telehealth appointment will feel similar to a normal doctor’s appointment, but will involve speaking to your doctor on a computer screen or over the phone. You might be at home for your appointment, or it could take place at the hospital with a specialist in a different location. Either way, many people say it’s no different from being in the same room!
The length of your appointment will depend on what you need to speak with a specialist about, but telehealth appointments can save travel time for you and your doctor.
You may get information specific to your appointment ahead of time, but these general tips may help you get ready for your telehealth appointment and make the most of it:
The My Health Record is an Australian Government initiative to digitize health records. As of 2018, everyone in Australia has a digital record of their health, except for those who opted out.
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Last updated: 23/06/2021
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