10 million telehealth services provided to rural Australians
More than 3.2 million Australians in need of health care in regional, rural and remote Australia have received 10 million telehealth services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Government has introduced 283 new Medicare Benefits Schedule telehealth items since March 2020, as the first wave of the Coronavirus reached Australia, to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Federal Health Minister Mark Coulton said the milestone shows that rural Australians were continuing to receive health advice and care via phone and video to manage illnesses, stay well and stay out of hospital.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of the all Australians, and through the course of the pandemic telehealth has helped us protect patients in the regions and our frontline of health professionals,” Minister Coulton said.
Minister Coulton added that for some rural communities, telehealth provides access to specialised health care not seen before locally, which is beneficial for rural and remote communities.
Australians will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioners, nursing, midwifery, allied health and mental health services. Telehealth has also been extended for essential specialist services.
“While telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care, it is an important tool to facilitate healthcare access for rural and remote Australians, reducing the need to travel into town or a major city for a range of appointments,” Minister Coulton said.
Minister Coulton said the Australian Government’s commitment to guaranteeing Medicare has enabled regional and rural Australians to easily access GP services. More than 43.4 million GP services were provided to patients outside Australia’s major cities in the last financial year, compared to 42.2 million in 2018–19, marking a 2.7% increase.
“Telehealth is here to stay. The government is working with the health sector to consider a broader and permanent range of telehealth services in developing our Primary Care Plan. This extension will continue a broad range of Medicare telehealth services, where clinically appropriate,” Minister Coulton said.
The 2020–21 Budget has allocated a further $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health response measures until 31 March 2021.
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