How to seek medical advice from the comfort of your own home

How to seek medical advice from the comfort of your own home

Australians can now seek medical advice from their GP or mental health professional from the comfort of their living room without being left out of pocket. 

They can phone or video call their medical professional and bulk bill as part of new Government measures to try and contain the coronavirus, a move very much needed, that will also change the way many view telehealth.

The list of medical professionals people can now access for bulk-billed telehealth consultations includes - GP’s, midwives, psychologists, nurses, psychiatrists, paediatricians, speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists for services for children with developmental delays. Also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners as well as social workers and dieticians for eating disorders.

You may be surprised to know telehealth has been in existence for over a decade yet the uptake has been slow and fragmented in this country. 

This is despite its success to date  - it improves access to health care for those in rural and regional areas, it’s more affordable, reduces the risk of infection spreading and there’s less strain on hospital emergency departments.

People think of telehealth as simply enabling people to seek medical help and advice via phone or online using video technology such as FaceTime and Skype, but it has gone beyond just this. 

New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence can help clinicians vastly increase their patient risk assessments by helping to automatically assess data providing key indications that may flag issues missed in traditional testing methods.

As Australians start using telehealth, and we expect unprecedented numbers will, and they witness first hand how effective it is we will see it start to become the norm. 

This is not the first time telehealth has been used in disaster situations before - Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the 2011 earthquake in Japan as well as the Boston Blizzard in 2014. In the 2003 SARS outbreak, one-fifth of reported infections were in health-care workers. Healthcare systems are easily stretched beyond their limits and it’s critical the health-care workers are kept well, so they can attend to the surge in required services. 

As patients get access to expert medical advice while maintaining social distancing ..this shift will start to change the mindset of both the clinical and patient community, helping normalise the remote delivery of gold class clinical care.

Our work at Maxwell Plus in the diagnosis of prostate cancer is fully remote for the vast majority of our patients. We centralise the clinical expertise and use telehealth and other technologies to make that widely available. 

At the same time, we utilise the excellent existing infrastructure through partnering with pathology and radiology services all over the country. 

I think patients everywhere are starting to understand that top quality care can be delivered in many different ways.

Written by Dr Elliott Smith.