Telehealth Transforming Health Care
Australian patients will be able to have Medicare funded consultations with any medical specialist via a video conference for the first time starting 1 July 2011.
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The Hon Julia Gillard
The Hon Nicola Roxon
Minister for Health and Ageing
29 June 2011
Australian patients will be able to have Medicare funded consultations with any medical specialist via a video conference for the first time starting this Friday.
Telehealth will transform the way healthcare is delivered in Australia by removing distance, time and cost as a barrier to accessing care – delivering better health outcomes for patients.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Nicola Roxon previewed Telehealth services today through a joint video conference in Darwin and Adelaide – delivering on one of the Government’s key election commitments.
Telehealth services are a key part of the Gillard Government’s National Digital Economy Strategy, strongly supported by the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
The Gillard Government’s $620 million Telehealth initiative will allow patients in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas to ‘see’ their specialist close to home without the time and expense of travelling to major cities.
Often these are the areas where specialists are in short supply.
From 1 July, Australians in those areas that cover 62% of the population and 99.9% of the Australian landmass will receive Medicare rebates and incentives for medical video conferencing.
The video conferencing can take place in their local GP clinic and other health care facilities in their local area to a specialist at another location.
Medicare funded Telehealth services will also be available to residents of eligible aged care facilities and to patients at Aboriginal Medical Services anywhere in Australia.
Today’s demonstration shows how a patient who can’t see a specialist dermatologist locally will be able, with the help of their local general practitioner ‘see’ that specialist via videoconferencing without having to travel interstate or wait for months for a locum specialist visit.
Participating health practitioners around the country will receive attractive Medicare rebates from 1 July to compensate them for their time invested in the consultation, and some support for the technology required.
These include increased Medicare rebates for Telehealth, payments to cover start up costs of installing the technology, and bulk billing incentives.
Payments are applicable for both the specialist and the GP, nurse, midwife or Aboriginal health worker assisting the patient during the consultation.
The Gillard Government has set a goal in the National Digital Economy Strategy that 495,000 Telehealth consultations will have been delivered by July 2015.
Improving access to quality health care for all Australians is a key priority for the Gillard Government.
It is unacceptable that if you live in rural and regional Australia, you are up to three times more likely to die within five years if you are diagnosed with cancer than other Australians.
Improving access to services and health care professionals through initiatives like Medicare funded Telehealth services will help change these outcomes.
This builds on the Gillard Government’s health reforms that include investments in eHealth records and regional cancer centres to reduce the divide between metropolitan and regional Australia.
Further information is available at www.yourhealth.gov.au
Press Office (02) 6277 7744
Minister Roxon's Office (02) 6277 7220
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