Online psychology for bush a much-needed advance

The introduction of Medicare cover for online consultations with psychologists for people in rural Australia is a welcome development, the Consumers Health Forum says.

“The expansion of telehealth services for country people is timely and appropriate particularly for psychological services when so many rural Australians currently miss out on this often critically-needed therapy,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“The announcement by the Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Minister for Regional Development, Fiona Nash, provides a valuable signpost to making the most of telehealth in semi remote and remote Australia where a full array of multidisciplinary health services are often inadequate and rates of untreated illness are significantly above those in urban areas.

 “The dramatically higher rates of suicide in country Australia and the fact that people in those regions see mental health professionals at one-fifth the rate of Australians in the cities, make online psychology a natural for Medicare coverage which is designed to support universal access to care.

Rural Australians are also vulnerable to higher rates of chronic diseases, many of which co-exist with high-revalence, disabling mental health conditions such as depression.  This new option for the delivery of psychological care will make it easier to include mental health treatment as part of coordinated chronic condition care plans.

“There is growing evidence to support the effectiveness of online psychological services and we hope this development will be monitored to ensure its value is maximised and benefits of such technology are extended to other health services,” Ms Wells said.

“CHF is an advocate for ensuring Medicare remains universal and fit-for-purpose for contemporary Australian lifestyles.   The move towards funding services that can be delivered effectively through a mix of in-person consultations and non face-to-face modes is part of modernising Medicare,” Ms Wells said. 


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