While an online doctor certainly isn’t suitable for all, it has taken the pressure off of other Australian health services including GP wait times, hospital and ambulance services. As restrictions begin to ease around the world, one question remains – is telehealth and the services of online doctors here to stay?
During the Covid-19 international pandemic, it’s amazing how much of our day to day lives have shifted online. This has included work, shopping, and even seeing a doctor. Although we’ve been told under strict instruction to stay home, life has indeed continued – perhaps just not as we know it.
According to Australia’s Minister For Health MP Greg Hunt, over three million Australians have made the switch to telehealth during the coronavirus period. This has included the delivery of more than four million medical and health services to ordinary Australians, and ultimately helped to “flatten the curve” in keeping our cases down.
What exactly is telehealth?
Telehealth consultations act as an online service to provide better access to medical professionals for people from all walks of life. This platform not only reduces time and travel costs for patients, but also provides better access to health services for those living in regional, rural and remote areas.
Consultations with an online doctor at 13 Doctor are available seven days a week, between 7:00am to 11:00pm. These are performed via an online video call, where patients can access medical certificates, scripts and even further referrals if required – all from the comfort of their own home or aged care facility.
Is telehealth here to stay in Australia?
Medical professionals all around the nation certainly believe so. Many believe that this type of service was previously underutilised, but has of course recently come into the spotlight with the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 and social distancing measures.
Many Australians have adapted virtually overnight to the “new normal” – which has included many traditional face to face interactions shifting online.
Director of the Institute of Health Transformation at Deakin University, Professor Anna Peeters believes that telehealth and the services of online doctors in Australia was extremely underutilised prior to the international pandemic.
She has noted that the advantages of telehealth services – traditionally limited to specific populations in rural and regional Australia that were eligible – were now clearer than ever.
“It’s a much more convenient way of accessing healthcare, it’s a much more equitable way of accessing healthcare, and it can also give the practitioner more flexibility in many ways as well”.
According to a recent study conducted by Black Book Market Research in the United States, the shift in public opinion on telehealth and the services provided by an online doctor has been clear – prior to Covid-19, only 25% of respondents had previously used an online doctor. This has increased dramatically, with 59% of respondents now more likely to use a telehealth provider.