Australian Federal Government’s $2.4 billion health response to the coronavirus outbreak boosts telehealth services

The Morrison government has announced a $2.4 billion health response to the coronavirus outbreak which includes free telehealth services and pop-up clinics. Currently, there have been 106 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and three patients have died.

“We have been able to contain the first round of cases from China and clear all of the people,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“We have been able to contain all of those cases that were brough back as part of the quarantine on Diamond Princess. Now we are managing the next phase of it. This is about making sure we are prepared.”

What does the response include?

From this Friday (13 March), Australians will be able to bulk-bill phone or video consultations with GPs to diagnose coronavirus symptoms. Medical and mental health staff will be allowed to conduct sessions over the phone or online, using platforms such as FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp.

Telehealth services will be available to people isolating themselves at home on the advice of a healthcare professional. Other vulnerable groups including those aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged over 50, those with chronic health conditions, parents with new babies and people who are pregnant, will also be able to use the service.

The Federal Government is further looking to combine information into a smartphone app to combat any confusion and spread of misinformation. The Burnet Institute’s Head of Public Health Professor Mark Stoove said, “It’s really important from a public health and prevention perspective that the messages to get out are factual, evidence-based and consistent and I think that’s one of the issues that the Government’s been grappling with recently.”

Health authorities will also establish up to 100 pop-up clinics to help divert people with minor symptoms away from hospitals and healthcare clinics. These clinics will be staffed by GPs and nurses who will be able to see up to 75 patients a day. To accompany these initiatives, the Federal Government will launch a national $30m communications campaign aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus through educating Australians on how to prevent and mitigate the impacts of the virus. This campaign also follows complaints from some medical professionals who have been concerned there is a lack of detailed information about how to handle people presenting with symptoms.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth provides a platform for patients to receive quality healthcare services from GPs, specialists and other healthcare professionals through phone and video consultations. These services will assist in taking the burden off GP clinics and hospital emergency departments.

How can telehealth help patients during the coronavirus outbreak?

There are multiple ways telehealth can effectively help treat patients with COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus.

  • Easy access to medical advice and information:  for patients in isolation, these services will provide easy access to information and healthcare options.
  • Reduce spread of the virus:  communicating through a telehealth service reduces the risk of spreading the virus at a public practice or hospital.
  • GPs can reach more patients: GPs will be able to treat more patients through providing medical advice and information on a larger scale. This leaves room for clinics and hospitals to treat more severe cases of the virus.
  • On-going benefits for the healthcare system: with COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing, telehealth services can help reduce hospital admissions and encourage people to stay in isolation if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Book an online doctor consult now with one of our telehealth professionals through House Call Doctor.