A new telehealth initiative to be rolled out later in 2017 seeks to provide residents in rural and remote regions of Australia with the same access to psychologists as those living in major cities.
A new Medicare rebate, claimable from November 1, for online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists, removing a financial barrier. Up to seven of the ten sessions currently available under Medicare rebatable mental health plans will be available via telehealth.
A telehealth solution can help eliminate the inconvenience, time and expense of having to travel to larger regional centres or major cities for sessions with their psychologist. It will enable health professionals to connect sooner and interact regularly with patients in need of psychological services. The earlier intervention in mental health crisis can aid faster recovery.
According to the press release, people in rural areas experience higher rates of ill health, and demonstrate higher death, illness and health and disease risk factors than people living in major cities but they have to travel greater distances to receive medical services. Conditions might go untreated as a result.
President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr Ewen McPhee, said, “There is no doubt that enhanced access to psychological services will help narrow the gap in health equity for rural people.”
This initiative’s estimated over a four-year period from 2017–18 to 2020–21 is AU$9 million. It will be ensured that the services go to areas with the biggest access challenges, not to larger regional centres that are more likely to have resident psychologists and other health professionals.The Medicare rebatable psychological services via telehealth will be available for patients living in Modified Monash Model regions four to seven, which cover smaller country towns and remote and very remote locations.