I am happy to follow up on a previous post I made on this website last April (Medicare for Skype Appointments) by reporting it is now possible for people living in regional and remote parts of Australia to claim Medicare Rebates for psychological services delivered via the internet, using technologies such as Skype and FaceTime.
The ‘telehealth measure to improve access to psychological services for rural and remote patients’ is designed to help those living outside of metropolitan centres more easily access psychological therapy.
This will be a huge help to many of our current and future clients. It is not uncommon for some of our clients to travel 10 hours or more to see our psychologists for an hour-long session. Previously they could only use the Medicare system for face to face visits. This has been a significant barrier to many people receiving treatment for mental health conditions in regional and remote parts of Australia.
Currently clients receiving psychological treatment under the Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative can have a maximum of 10 Medicare rebate-able sessions per calendar year. People living in regional and remote areas of Australia will now be able to have a maximum of seven sessions via video calling technologies such as Skype and FaceTime. Patients will be required to have a face to face session within the first four sessions, in order to assist the development of the therapeutic relationship between patient and therapist.
The referral pathway to access telehealth psychological services will be the same as for the current Better Access to Mental Health initiative, details of which can be found (here). Medicare Rebates are also the same for video consultations as they are for face to face visits.
It surprises me that there has been no major announcement about this scheme by the Federal Government. They are usually eager to promote schemes such as this in order to bask in the warm glow of positive media attention.
If you are reading this post and know someone living in a regional or remote part of Australia who is thinking about seeing a psychologist, please feel free to forward them the link to this page.