Telehealth is an umbella term for many aspects of delivering health services via technology. It has been used in mainstream medicine for many years, stretching way back to early days of RFDS with phonecalls to support people in rural and remote areas. Its definition—broadly speaking—is the provision of health and medical services via technology. Even the definition of ‘technology’ is broad. Technology includes, phone, email, fax, video conference, teleconference, and virtual reality. Then there are those technologies that haven’t quite reached mainstream allied health yet, artificial intelligence springs to mind. Many allied health busiensses are providing telehealth services and all the others are curious, let’s have a look at what’s involved.Telehealth has obvious applications for people in rural and remote areas. Given. However, what about its application for busy working families who can’t make a face-to-face appointment, who work shifts and don’t have regular routines, who don’t drive, who struggle to leave the house or are reluctant to have clinicians visit ther homes? I personaly believe that telehealth has huge application for metropolitan families.
Real-time telehealth is the main service delivery for allied health professionals. This involves much more than just jumping on Skype. It requires a different mindset and clinical skill set. Your service agreement will need to include telehealth as a service; storage and sharing of recorded calls will need to be outlined. Guidelines for clients regarding hardware, software, and internet requirements will support the shift to a possible unfamiliar service delivery method. It is likely that you will need to email worksheets prior to the session along with a check list of things the adult needs to have ready. The right preparation helps to ensuire that the real-time virtual therapy session is positive and effective.
Skype is one option, but there may be other products that better support your real-time service delivery. Zoom has a great scheduling and recording function. Secure storage of agreements, worksheets, documents and recordings could be managed (with mutual agreement) in products such as Google Docs or Dropbox. Lots to think about.
As an Education Platform for Clients
Telehealth can facilitate education and information exchange with clients. Virtual meetings, clinical supervision, parent support, and e-learning programs are increasingly being used. The ‘Team Talk Teleconference’ program I provide with Megan Ingram reaches tens of paediatric allied health clinicians nationwide. From my metro Melbourne office I often host virtual meetings with parents (it is fantastic to have both parents and, at times, extended family), educators, and several allied health providers. It saves time and, therefore, money.
Telehealth has been listed on the MBS for medical practitioners for years. My understanding is that Medicare claimable item numbers are being extended to mental health professionals who serve rural and remote clients from October 2017. Private health insurance agencies do not yet cover telehealth. Telehealth services may be provided with HCWA, BSI and NDIS services. I look forward to rebatable service for all clients who want it, regardless of geography and funding source. Rant over.
How could you be using technology more to support your clients?