Dr Michael Clements praises the telehealth and Medicare changes as a ‘monumental’ shift in the way GPs conduct their business.
Dr Michael Clements praises the telehealth and Medicare changes as a ‘monumental’ shift in the way GPs conduct their business.

‘Monumental’ breakthrough to change health landscape

A "MONUMENTAL" breakthrough for telehealth services is set to change the way medicine is practised in the years to come.

A $669 million agreement brokered between the Australian Medical Association and Federal Government has expanded access of digital consultations between patients and GPs in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The additional services available through telehealth include mental health consultations, an area which Townsville GP Michael Clements views as particularly crucial given the situation.

Dr Clements said ordinarily a doctor would always prefer to consult a patient in person as then they could pick up on subtleties in body language and the way they engaged with others.

This became particular important in mental health assessments.

But the Fairfield Central Medical Practice practitioner said effective assessments would still be able to be performed with telehealth.




And as coronavirus continued to cloud society with a veil of confusion he said mental wellbeing would be a crucial focus point for doctors.

"I suspect there will be a lot of people still in shock right now and still coming to grips with what has happened in the last few days and weeks," Dr Clements said.

"While they might not be recognising they are suffering from depression or anxiety symptoms there are a lot of stresses that could develop soon.

"We encourage people to keep communicating with their GP about their mood and how they are coping with a lot of the changes."

The expansion of services have essentially ensured everything a general practice can offer and conduct via video or telephone conference can now be accessed through telehealth and is available for Medicare rebate.




In addition to mental health treatment, chronic disease management and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments are included, as are services to people with eating disorders, pregnancy support counselling, services to patients in aged care facilities, children with autism, and after-hours consultations.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt labelled it a "radical transformation" and "a decade's worth of work in a matter of days".

It is a sentiment supported by Dr Clements who, while he expected the demand for telehealth to ease after the pandemic eases, said marked a "monumental change" to the way general practitioners did business.

"Traditional medicine involves holding the patients hand and examining and connecting face-to-face," Dr Clements said.

"COVID-19 has changed the safety around that kind of technique, so now we are forced into changing the way we practice medicine and these Medicare changes signal a monumental shift that supports that."

Originally published as 'Monumental' breakthrough to change health landscape