Video link improves rural access to mental health specialists
People living in rural and remote areas will be able to talk to a psychiatrist via video link and claim it under Medicare, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, announced today.
11 October 2002
Video link improves rural access to mental health specialistsPeople living in rural and remote areas will be able to talk to a psychiatrist via video link and claim it under Medicare, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, announced today.
She said the initiative was the first time anywhere in the world that a nationwide, publicly-funded model had used a video link to deliver psychiatric services.
Senator Patterson said the initiative was a major step in ensuring that people living in rural areas had better access to psychiatric services and complemented the Federal Government's $120 million Better outcomes in Mental Health Care initiative and the $550 million program to provide more doctors to rural areas.
"It shines the light for further applications for telemedicine, which could include other specialities that do not require a direct physical examination," Senator Patterson said.
However, she said the pyschiatrist video link program would not replace face-to-face contact between patients and doctors. Up to four long-range consultations are
possible, after which a face-to-face consultation must follow.
"The telepsychiatry initiative provides for up to 12 telepsychiatry consultations via video link between psychiatrists based in metropolitan areas and patients living in rural or remote areas," she said.
The decision to introduce telepsychiatry to the MBS is supported by research, which demonstrates that video consultations are effective in promoting positive outcomes of care for patients.
"Psychiatrists will need to undertake some familiarisation training to become eligible to access the new MBS items," Senator Patterson said.
"The details of these requirements are being worked out with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists."
"The new case conferencing items will allow a psychiatrist plus at least two other health professionals to provide integrated clinical care for patients with complex conditions.
"The Government is placing these services on the MBS in response to the difficulties faced by people in rural and remote areas to access the services of a mental health specialist.
"The initiatives will also help GPs benefit from the support that psychiatrists and allied health providers can give in the way of specialist advice in the care of their patients.
"We hope a spin-off could be that psychiatrists will develop a relationship with patients in rural and remote areas and be more likely to visit them."
Senator Patterson said that telepsychiatry and case conferencing items would be placed in the next edition of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, due for release in November 2002.
Media Contact: Randal Markey, Minister's Media Adviser, 0417 694 520