Telehealth – hopefully here to stay

It took 17 years after the invention of the stethoscope before doctors started to use them more widely. Dr Ignaz Semmelweiss who realised that women in the Vienna Hospital would have a lower chance of death after delivery if people washed their hands, was fired for suggesting other doctors do as he said.

Consulting patients over the phone has had a similar history in Australia.

Services have existed for some time, but doctors had always been nervous to prescribe, treat or advise people they couldn’t physically see and touch. Regardless if it is true or not, we did feel more comfortable laying hands on a person, taking their blood pressure, and just seeing how they were.

But since health is not just the absence of severe disease, there is a lot we can do with a verbal history.

COVID-19 thrust telehealth into the spotlight. And now that we’ve seen it can work when done well, it’d be a outrageous politician who suggests we take it away.

So how can telehealth work for you?

I think it’s a no brainer, that if you can’t make the time to come into your doctor, but you can find 15-30 minutes for a conversation, then telehealth can better fit into your day.

If you can’t get away from home, work, or are stuck in traffic – instead of missing your appointment – our staff will offer to turn it into a phone or video conversation instead.

Yes, there are situations where you’ll need to be seen in person. At present our phones can’t measure our blood pressure via the camera (though it sounds unfathomable – such technology is being developed), so you may still need to come in.

Moving out of area?

Life changes, the one bedroom apartment isn’t quite big enough for the growing family, and maybe you’re looking for a seachange.

Telehealth means that you can still keep your relationship with your doctor and clinic. Medicare will continue to provide a rebate on your consult for up to 12 months after your last in person visit. Even if a rebate isn’t applicable, sometimes it’s just easier to talk to a doctor who knows you really well isntead of starting from scratch.

So moving postcodes doesn’t have to be goodbye, especially if you’ve found your medical home.

Making it easy

The easiest way to arrange a telehealth consult is by booking online.

You can go to our website and click the book online button, but installing the hotdoc app means you can favourite our clinic and your preferred doctor, and manage your appointments easier if you need to reschedule them.

The app also is a better way to receive reminders specific to you, so you can action them directly.

You can download the app by clicking here

Make sure you’re in a space that’s relatively quiet so you can hear your doctor clearly, and if you think you need a video consultation, ensure the space is well lit so we can assess anything that concerns you as best we can over video.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes your doctor will just call you on your phone. This is pretty low tech and easy. It’s worth adding our two numbers to your address book so you know it’s us calling.

02 9699 8111
&
02 8205 7434

Your doctor might also like to videochat with you, so look out for an SMS that looks like this.

And once you’re in your doctor will ask you to accept a video call.

What else does the future hold?

Along with telehealth, e-scripts make it a fairly seamless and paperless experience. Click here to learn more about e-scripts.

One day, an asynchronous text service would be a great complimentary service for non urgent issues where you can chat with your doctor. GSHealth is looking at ways we may be able to implement this, so stay tuned.

Tell your local MP you want telehealth to stay!

There is a chance that come March 31, the COVID telehealth rebates from Medicare will cease to exist. I think it’s obvious that we can’t go back to forcing everyone to present to their GP face to face. But having a rebate to deliver a good service takes away the friction for a lot of people to use it, and also keeps everyone safe when you can be seen from home and don’t need to come in. So let your local MP and the health minister know you want telehealth to stick around!

Click here to learn how to contact Greg Hunt (Minister for Health)

Click here to learn how to contact Tanya Plibersek (Member for Sydney)