Telehealth and Medicare funding in Australia

Dr Katie Stirling                                                                              15th December 2019

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth refers to when a health professional (e.g., psychologist, doctor) consults with a patient via video call. Sometimes referred to as online therapy, digital health, or video call, telehealth enables clients to access support from any location. 

Medicare and Telehealth

The Australian government funds telehealth services under Medicare. At the moment there are a number of restrictions on who can access telehealth funded services with an online psychologist. Under the Better Access Program the Australian government provides Medicare Rebates for telehealth psychology for people in remote and rural areas to ensure they can access online therapy where they may not be able to access face-to-face therapy for a number of reasons. At this stage telehealth funding is not available for people living in major cities or urban areas. 

Why are Telehealth services so Important

Telehealth enables people who may not otherwise have been able to access important health and psychological care, consult with psychologists online. Telehealth breaks down geographical barriers and enables individuals to access the support they need from the comfort of their home, or other convenient locations. 

Who else might benefit from telehealth

Telehealth can benefit people for a number of different reasons. Some people are unable to see their psychologists as regularly as they need due to travel times, work constraints, child care, confidentiality. For some people the idea of coming into a practice can be anxiety provoking and being able to access telehealth services ensures they are able to access the mental healthcare they need. For others such as doctors there are particular concerns about confidentiality and privacy, telehealth supports doctors to access online psychologists outside their community, without having to step into a psychology practice. 

Can I do telehealth if I can’t access a Medicare Rebate

Anyone can access psychology telehealth services whether you live in Australia or overseas. If you are paying privately you do not need to meet any criteria to see a telehealth psychologist online. However, you can only access Medicare rebates if you live in a rural or remote area and meet certain criteria (e.g., you must have a referral from your doctor and you must have a diagnosable mental health condition). 

What now?

If you are considering telehealth and want to know what to look for in an online therapist read this helpful article. Or you can watch this short video to find out how telehealth works? 

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