Last Wednesday the Australian Government announced that people who live in regional and remote areas of Australia will soon be able to use Medicare to access psychologists and psychiatrists via video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime. This announcement is welcome news indeed, and in my opinion long overdue. Many of our clients travel long distances to access our psychologists. Some even having to stay overnight in motels to make the trip. Our psychology practice has been using Skype to see some of our clients for many years, however, Medicare has only been available for face to face sessions. This situation has meant that many people needing to see a psychologist have not been able to access our services.
Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash made the announcement at the National Press Club in Canberra, saying many Australians who are going without treatment will now receive it.
“This will mean rural and remote Australians can use Skype, FaceTime or video calling to access psychologists and psychiatrists all over Australia from their home or a local medical centre,” she said.
This is a good example of how technology can be used to help people in a practical way. With the National Broad Band Network (NBN) being rolled out across the Australian Continent, hopefully the public health care system will embrace new and innovative ways to bring better health care to those living outside of the major cities.
Details about exactly who will be eligible for these Medicare rebate-able services, and how much the rebate will be are not yet available. There is no doubt that many people suffering with mental health issues, who live in regional and remote areas will benefit greatly once this scheme is up and running. I will post more information on this topic as it is released.