2020 has been a big year, one that few of us are likely to forget anytime soon. The Covid-19 pandemic has completely reshaped the world and our day-to-day lives look very different to what they did six months ago. Stay at home orders and the requirement to physically distance has made elements of life that we previously took for granted very difficult.
Luckily, in a world shaped and driven by technology, there are many emerging services that are making everyday tasks far easier. One of the most popular of these is online health consultations or telehealth appointments with an online doctor in Australia.
Telehealth services are not a new phenomenon, particularly in Australia. The ability to speak to a doctor or health professional remotely has proven invaluable in rural parts of the country, where doctor’s surgeries and hospitals can be up to hundreds of kilometres away. However, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the use of these services skyrocketing, even in metropolitan areas. Stay-at-home orders have deterred people from visiting their local GP, as has the fear of contracting the virus by going out in public.
The Australian Government recently announced their intention to make telehealth a utilised weapon in the battle against coronavirus with a widespread expansion of telehealth services and support, including Medicare-subsidised telehealth consultations. This was done to not only protect the general public but also health professionals themselves, who may sit in a high-risk category for contracting Covid-19.
Despite the increasing popularity of telehealth providers, there remains some stigma surrounding them. Read on to learn what these services can provide and how you can be assured you and your family will be receiving top-quality, secure and professional healthcare advice.
What is an online medical provider?
An online medical provider is more than a chat with a doctor over the phone or via Skype. An online doctor in Australia will provide you with the same experience as an in-person consultation, without the time-consuming fuss and bother of travelling to a surgery. Telehealth uses the latest in digital information and communication technologies to access and manage your health care remotely.
The online platform will typically require you to sign up, create an account, answer some basic questions about your medical history and book an appointment. The provider will be able to arrange many of the same services as an in-person physician including prescriptions, medical certificates and referrals.
When should I use an online medical provider?
It is not recommended that you utilise an online doctor service in a medical emergency — instead seek urgent, in-person medical advice at your nearest hospital.
Other than that, medical providers are suitable for a wide range of situations. They are ideal in circumstances where due to time or location, you can’t access your regular doctor or physician. They are suitable for lesser ailments, such as colds, flus and minor bacterial and viral infections.
They are also useful for managing chronic conditions, whereby a patient may need prescriptions fulfilled regularly. Via telehealth consultations, you are able to speak with a GP, medical specialist, nurse practitioner, midwife or Aboriginal health worker, depending on your circumstances.
What services do they offer?
Accessing telehealth services to speak with an online doctor in Australia will offer you many of the same services that in-person consultations do. Just a few examples include:
- Prescriptions: convenient access to prescriptions for a range of common drugs that have been previously prescribed to you as a patient (antihypertensives, contraceptives, diabetic medication). Other drugs can often be prescribed after consultation with an online doctor, depending on the service chosen.
- Medical certificates: workplaces often require medical certification when an employer has been away sick from work. Online medical providers can easily arrange certified medical certificates and carer’s certificates, often at a far cheaper price than a regular physician.
- Referrals: Online doctors can save you both time and money in providing further referrals to medical specialists and health professionals. This is particularly useful for those in rural areas who need to travel great distances to even see their GP, let alone a specialist.
Is my medical information safe?
Choosing a reputable online medical provider will ensure that your conversation, medical history and data remains confidential and safe. Check that your telehealth service is located in Australia, to ensure that your medical information is protected by Australian privacy legislation. If possible, ensure that your telehealth provider is using appropriate internet firewall technology to prevent data breaches. Feel free to question your online health provider if you have any questions.
Other concerns raised by medical practitioners include the fragmentation of healthcare — that providers will not be able to fully take into account a patient’s history when diagnosing and prescribing medication. Whilst there is always that risk, for individuals with low-grade concerns and who require common and previously prescribed medication (contraceptives, for example), telehealth is an excellent alternative to an in-person consultation.
Engaging the services of an online doctor in Australia should not replace the relationship you have with your GP or be a tool used in medical emergencies but it does provide a handy and convenient alternative when you are not able to reach a health practitioner in person.
Looking forward towards the future, one can expect online health services to only increase in popularity. The convenience offered in terms of accessibility, price and services means that telehealth is here to stay, and you should certainly consider taking advantage of all that the system offers.