The unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis has fundamentally changed the way general practices provide primary health care overnight. With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising daily, the Australian Government announced on 30th March 2020 that it would extend telehealth services to all patients, while also advising doctors to restrict face-to-face consults to help slow the spread.
This immediate change has meant you've likely heard the term 'telehealth' mentioned a lot lately. But what is telehealth, and how does it affect you? We're glad you asked!
We've put together a brief FAQ to help answer your questions. If you'd like any further information or clarification, please feel free to call your clinic.
What is telehealth?
A telehealth appointment is essentially the same as a regular face-to-face appointment with your GP but is over the telephone.
To arrange a telehealth appointment, simply book online or call the clinic as you would normally. At the time of your appointment, your GP will call you on the phone number you provided during the booking process – simple!
All you need is your telephone and a quiet place to talk.
On the phone call, your GP will first confirm your identity. They will then ask you questions about your symptoms (if you have any), and possibly some other questions so they can assess potential diagnoses as they won't be able to see you.
Who can have a telehealth appointment?
Every Australian with a Medicare card can now access telehealth!
These temporarily expanded telehealth services were introduced by the Australian Government to provide continued access to essential primary health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How much does a telehealth consult cost?
Telehealth consults will be bulk billed for all current concession card holders, children under 16 years old, and patients who are vulnerable to COVID-19. In some situations a consult fee may apply.
If needed, can I get a prescription via a telehealth appointment?
Yes, your GP can still issue a script if needed via a telehealth appointment. This will be sent to your pharmacy or can be collected from your clinic.
What if I need to see my doctor face-to-face?
If your GP has spoken with you and decides they need to see you, they'll either arrange an appointment for you to come into the clinic or may recommend a video call.
What do I need for a video call?
There are times where your GP might need to see you (e.g. if you have a rash), but it's not necessary for you to come to the clinic. In this case, your GP might arrange a video call, which is a good option, and enables your GP to provide a diagnosis or course of action (e.g., a prescription).
Our GPs use a secure online video calling platform that is simple to use and can operate on any smartphone.
We have developed a simple one-page instruction guide to help you to access the platform. Please click here.
Should my telehealth appointment be with my regular GP?
Yes. It is very important to have a regular GP who you can see over an extended period. There are many reasons for this, including:
- A GP who knows you and your local area – Having a regular GP allows for more open and comfortable communication as it builds trust and understanding. Where possible, your GP should also know what services are available in your local area (e.g. specialists, physiotherapists, dieticians, etc.) so that you can be well supported when needed.
- Management of chronic conditions – Your GP is the best person to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and asthma. To manage the ongoing care of these chronic diseases, a Care Plan may be advised, which is best completed by your GP.
- Advice on preventative health – preventative measures are important to a person's overall health, such as immunisations, early detection of cancers, PAP smears and breast checks, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or osteoporosis, checking blood pressure or cholesterol.
- Continuity of care – Your GP is responsible for referring you to other healthcare professionals, including medical specialists or Allied Health professionals. They all work together to ensure you receive the best possible care.
If you don’t already have a regular GP at our clinic, we hope you’ll consider our practice as your new home for your health care.
Is it still safe to visit my GP at the clinic?
Yes – it is still safe to attend your GP clinic.
The health and safety of our patients, doctors, and staff are paramount. As such, we've taken extra precautions to ensure everyone attending our clinic is protected from potential exposure to COVID-19, including:
- Screening of all phone calls and online bookings to reduce the risk of a person who has COVID-19 attending the clinic;
- Separate waiting areas to isolate unwell patients;
- Social distancing measures such as spreading chairs apart and asking people to remain 1.5m from the reception desk;
- Removal of magazines and toys from the waiting room; and
- The regular cleaning and sanitisation of surfaces in between patients, including chairs and tables.
The introduction of telehealth is another measure aimed at reducing the number of people in our clinics. We’re also asking people to stay at home unless necessary, which is in line with current health advice.