Published on Apr 22, 2020
Authored by Feisia Dam, BPharm(Hons)
The world has stopped in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The one thing that shouldn't stop is taking care of your health. If you are worried to step out of the house for the fear of contracting COVID-19, you can now see your doctor in the comfort of your own home. For vulnerable people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, lung conditions; or those over 70 years old, telehealth might be the answer.
Importantly, COVID-19 should not be a reason to avoid seeing the doctor for new health concerns or follow up management of existing conditions and medications.
Telehealth isn't new; doctors have been helping people in rural and remote communities for some time now. Instead of travelling to your medical appointments, you can consult with your doctor over the phone, or by using video conferencing using a smartphone or computer with a video camera (think Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom).
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector, including GPs, psychiatrists, specialists, and nurses, amongst others are rapidly changing the way they provide care while they ensure the safety of themselves, their staff and you, their patient.
While telehealth is not the solution to all medical appointments, it can help in the following situations:
There will be situations where the health professional will need to see you in person. Especially if a physical examination is required to diagnose or monitor a condition.
In Australia, you can be bulk billed if you have a Commonwealth concession card, are a vulnerable patient or aged below 16 years old. You also need to have a Medicare card. For everyone else, ask your health professional if the consultation will be bulk billed, or if they charge a fee.
In New Zealand, the cost is the same as an equivalent in-person consultation.
Importantly, be patient.
This process is new for everyone and expect the possibility of some delays or hurdles. At least you don’t have to travel!
Although a smartphone or computer helps you have a face-to-face video call from the comfort of your home, the consultation can still take place over the phone.
Remember, if you need to see a health professional in person, all medical centres and hospitals will be following stringent safety procedures to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19. You can read more on how to protect yourself from coronavirus here.
During your appointment, the doctor might need to prescribe a medicine for you. Like many things these days, your medication can be delivered to your home by your local pharmacy. If you’d like this, ask your doctor to send the prescription to your preferred pharmacy. Just check beforehand that your local pharmacy offers delivery and if they charge a fee.
In conclusion, during this COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare practices are rapidly moving to telehealth to protect themselves and the people that they serve. There's no better time than now to begin using phone and video calls for appointments, especially for vulnerable people with chronic health conditions or people over the age of 70.
There is no need to avoid seeing your health professional anymore!
Last reviewed: 17/06/2020
-Australian Government Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Health Plan resources
-New Zealand Ministry of Health COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) – information for specific audiences
-New Zealand Telehealth Forum and Resource Centre