Uber eats, home delivered groceries, cosmetics and books. There’s not much we can’t get delivered to our door these days while we’re cocooned inside staying safe and warm during the COVID Australian winter.
So it’s no surprise to see healthcare being delivered direct to our homes as well. No need to drive to the surgery, fight for a park, sit and wait (doctors regularly run late), whiz through your appointment, pay your bill, drive to the pharmacy (if medication is prescribed), wait for the script to be filled and trudge on home again.
These days it can all be done from the convenience of the couch, and you don’t even have to take off your ugg boots. Many prescription medicines can be lodged online and home delivered too.
While the remote delivery of healthcare has been evolving slowly in Australia, it got a huge boost with the onset of COVID.
Many people became concerned about visiting the GP, and preferred to stay away from medical centres and hospitals altogether unless their issue was considered serious enough. And similarly, doctors and other healthcare providers weren’t too keen about being exposed to lots of patients either.
So telehealth has gone from being a service that a small number of pioneering doctors offered, to a mainstream, almost preferred means of healthcare consultation and delivery for the vast majority of Australian GPs.
As a consequence, telehealth is now an established health service that’s commonly available to us all. Have you used it yet? What’s your experience been?
For those of us who are time poor, telehealth has been a great time-saving service that connects us with our doctors easily, safely and conveniently at home.
For older people who rely on others for transport to appointments, or to people living in rural and remote areas of Australia – it has been an important, vital link to essential health services that brings far reaching benefits.
It’s suddenly gotten a whole lot easier to connect with a healthcare provider. And the benefits don’t end there. A lot of allied health practitioners and wellness practitioners have joined the new world, at home delivered healthcare too.
So what is telehealth and how did it become so popular?
Telehealth comes in lots of shapes and sizes. Its official definition, according to the World Health Organisation is the delivery of health care services, where patients and providers are separated by distance.
While telehealth has been around for a long time, physical distancing requirements due to COVID-19 have made it an essential part of the way we now access and receive many healthcare services.
As part of its response to the pandemic, the Australian Government also expanded Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for Australians, and created incentives to doctors and other health practitioners to use the technology.
And it’s not only COVID-19 that’s growing the demand for telehealth services. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, telemedicine has also become a perfect at-home health service for monitoring the increasing numbers of people living with common health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and others.
How telehealth can make life easier
While telehealth has grown in popularity during COVID, mobile at-home health care has literally been a life saver for people living in rural and remote areas of Australia, and people with more limited mobility.
Consider some of these advantages:
- You can talk to a doctor in the comfort of your own home
- You don’t have to travel anywhere, saving time and travel costs
- You may not have to take as much time off work
- Family members can still take part in the consultation if you’d like them to
- You can stay at home if you’d prefer to be physically isolated
Where it all began
While telehealth might not have factored on many people’s radars until this year, the origins of using technology to assist in the delivery of a health service date back to as long ago as 1874, when a telegram helped a doctor treat a wounded person in central Australia.
For the last few decades, telehealth has been instrumental in providing diagnostic and clinical health service to people in rural and regional areas across Australia, making healthcare more accessible to people isolated by distance.
And some speciality practice areas – like radiology and dermatology – have been using telemedicine for decades to share images (including scans, x-rays and photos) of individuals between country GPs and city based specialists.
Tele-dermatology, or the diagnosis of skin conditions via technology, is one of the most widely used forms of tele-medicine. It’s been practiced since the 1990s, enabling dermatologists to check skin complaints through photos or, more recently, via video link.
Tele-dermatology has even been used by the US military to diagnose skin conditions in service men and women involved in active combat duty, reducing the number of evacuations required for medical reasons.
In terms of day-to-day use, telehealth has evolved to keep pace with the way we live, and the way in which many people choose to use and access healthcare. More people now have access to a home computer and smart phone technology. And we’re busier than ever. And more and more people want and need to stay connected, despite how and where we live.Telehealth goes back a long way: in 1874 a doctor treated an injured person in central Australia via telegram. #telehealth #telemedicine Click To Tweet
How telehealth works
Telehealth is usually delivered over the phone or a video call.
When you make an appointment with your doctor, you’ll probably be asked whether you’re happy to have a phone consultation, or whether you would like to see your doctor in person.
Your doctor may also have a website where you can book your appointment and choose either a face-to-face or telehealth appointment.
Once your appointment date and time arrives, you’ll talk to your doctor either over the phone or via video call.
It’s not just doctors who are offering telehealth appointments. You are now able to see physios, optometrists, and even yoga teachers via telehealth.
But wait – is telehealth secure?
Telehealth consultations are generally secured via an encrypted connection or by using a Virtual Private Network, commonly known as a VPN.
A VPN allows you to securely connect to a network via a private server, rather than through your internet service provider.
That means your private data is transmitted safely, adding another layer of security to the consultation.
Get blood screenings at home, too
While MyHealthTest has been providing convenient at-home health testing for some time – it’s good to see a more diverse range of health services being offered in the home as well.
Our workplace health testing programs can include a telehealth consultation. After completing a diabetes or thyroid fingerprick blood test, each employee has an individual telehealth consultation to answer any questions about their personal blood results.
Workplaces with remote workers, and that is becoming the new normal, can continue to look after their employees’ health.
And soon, we’ll be expanding our services further and offering blood tests to check levels of certain vitamins, including Vitamin D and B, and for hormones including cortisol, progesterone and testosterone.
We’ll bring you more news of those upcoming tests in our newsletters.
We’re proud to be part of this significant shift in the healthcare sector, putting easy to access at-home health services and testing within reach of all Australians of all ages.Continue to keep up with your health checks during COVID-19. Home based health checks are a safe way to stay on top of your health while maintaining safe social distancing. #healthchecks Click To Tweet