Accessible healthcare and affordable telehealth consultations are necessary for all, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, when individuals choose not to visit a clinic in person.
A research paper published in 2020 by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), titled ‘Achieving Equitable Patient Access to Primary Healthcare in Australia,’ examined the accessibility of primary healthcare in Australia.
The study identified areas with population concentrations that lack access to primary healthcare services within a 60-minute drive.
Among the findings:
- Forty-two thousand eight hundred five individuals, including 9,132 who are Indigenous Australians, have no access to any primary healthcare services within a 60-minute drive.
- Sixty-five thousand fifty people need access to a general practitioner (GP) within a 60-minute drive.
This is where affordable telehealth consultations offer an excellent solution, according to the patient’s convenience.
It allows the patient to communicate and consult with the doctor in their homes.
Affordable telehealth services in Australia aim to provide accessible healthcare, especially in remote or underserved areas.
How is Hospital Accessibility Measured?
Hospital accessibility is evaluated based on specific criteria.
An accessible healthcare system ensures that medical services are provided promptly, within a reasonable geographic range, and in an environment where the available skills and resources align with an individual’s medical requirements (as defined by WHO in 2006).
In Australia, the accessibility of hospitals can be measured using various approaches, including:
- Waiting times for service access.
- Examine the geographic location, socioeconomic status, and indigenous status of the individuals utilizing hospital services.
- Analysis of the quantity and distribution of healthcare services and hospital facilities.
What are the Challenges In Healthcare Services?
Several things influence the ability to access healthcare services.
Specific individuals with disabilities encounter obstacles when attempting to access healthcare services, which can encompass:
- Extended wait times.
- Financial barriers.
- Inaccessible physical structures.
Additionally, they may need better communication between the healthcare professionals responsible for their care.
How is Access to Healthcare in Australia Provided?
Access to healthcare in Australia is generally provided through the country’s universal healthcare system, Medicare.
Here are some statistics and information related to healthcare access in Australia:
Australia has a universal healthcare system, meaning all Australian citizens and permanent residents can access essential medical services through Medicare.
This includes doctor visits, hospital care, and subsidized prescription medications.
Medicare provides a system of “bulk billing,” where doctors can bill Medicare directly for their services.
When a doctor bills in bulk, patients typically do not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for the consultation.
During 2019–2020, approximately 86% of all general practice services were bulk billed.
Public vs. Private Healthcare
Australia also has a private healthcare system, where individuals can purchase private health insurance to access private hospitals and other services.
Some Australians choose private health insurance to have more options and avoid long waiting times for elective surgeries.
It’s important to note that there are disparities in healthcare access and health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
The government has specific programs and initiatives to improve Indigenous health and reduce disparities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia implemented measures to ensure all residents could access testing, treatment, and vaccines.
The government provided information and updates on the pandemic response through official websites and health authorities.
How Accessible and Affordable are Telehealth Consultations in Australia?
Telehealth consultations are a cost-effective and convenient way to access medical care. Here are some critical points about affordable telehealth in Australia:
As mentioned, many telehealth consultation providers in Australia offer bulk-billed services, which means patients can consult with a healthcare professional for free or at a reduced cost if they are eligible for Medicare.
The Australian government has expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth consultation services during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more affordable for patients.
It’s a temporary measure, but it’s been a significant step in improving accessibility.
Private Health Insurance
Some private health insurance providers may cover telehealth consultation services as part of their policies. You should check with your insurance provider to see if this option is available.
Specialized Telehealth Providers
Rural and Remote Access
Online telehealth consultation is valuable in rural and remote areas of Australia where access to in-person healthcare may be limited.
It helps bridge the gap and ensures that people in these regions can receive the right medical care.
Pharmacies and Telepharmacies
Some pharmacies offer telehealth services, especially for minor ailments and prescription refills. This is a cost-effective way to receive healthcare benefits.
When seeking affordable telehealth consultation services in Australia, it’s essential to research providers, their fees, and any discounts that may apply to your situation.
Additionally, verify the qualifications and credentials of the healthcare professionals you consult with and the security and privacy measures in place for your telehealth appointments.
Ensuring accessible and affordable healthcare in Australia is paramount, particularly where individuals lack easy access to primary healthcare services.
Telehealth consultation emerges as a viable solution, offering patient-centric healthcare and bridging geographical gaps.
Moreover, private health insurance and specialized telehealth providers contribute to a well-rounded healthcare landscape. This is beneficial for remote regions.
By embracing telehealth, affordable healthcare in Australia is taking significant steps towards providing equitable healthcare access for everyone.