COVID-19 has presented a raft of challenges for health professionals, but in terms of telehealth, it also opened up potentially amazing opportunities.
All around us, society is slowly coming out of the more restrictive phase of COVID-19 pandemic management, and, as it does, a crucial discussion about telehealth in Australia is firmly on the table.
As Australian flock once more (maybe a little too quickly - stay COVID-SAFE people) to take up social activities denied to them for months, health professionals are also gearing up for a shift in service provision.
A couple of months ago we pointed out that tech has been a major boon to health professionals during COVID-19, and in many ways has ensured some easing of pressure on the health sector during a pandemic, which is where tech is at its best: helping humans to live our best lives.
However, while tech has been a boon, there is a dark side when it comes to GP attendance, as pointed out recently by the RACGP.
Citing Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) data analysed by the Heart Foundation, there had been a 10% drop - equating to nearly 100,000 visits - in March 2020 of those who would normally present for chronic disease management.
While this is understandable given those with chronic health conditions are potentially more vulnerable during a health emergency like a pandemic, and thus more likely to isolate, with nearly 1 in 2 Australians living with a chronic disease, many of these Australians might miss out on essential GP-led aspects of their health-management regime.
With restrictions lifting, there will probably be an uptake of presentations once more, but, as Machiavelli said, “never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.”
This opportunity is the opening up of telehealth.
The AMA, which for many years has advocated the expansion of telehealth services, has jumped all over this and the fact that Australian patients have embraced telehealth in a way that should make the government stand up and take notice.
On 21 May, AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, spruiked the potential benefits of making telehealth a more permanent fixture for health management options for Australians.
Noting that telehealth would and should never be a substitute for face-to-face consultations, its capacity to improve health outcomes, particularly for elderly, remotely located and physically challenged patients, is invaluable. On top of this, there is also its capacity for streamlining GP work processes and reducing some costs of healthcare provision, PLUS the fact it has been so eagerly embraced by Australians, all of which make the permanent addition of telehealth to the MBS a seemingly easy decision.
“Telehealth is the way of the future and must become another essential element of Australia’s world-class health system,” was Dr Bartone’s summation in an argument difficult to counter.
There is also the fact that once telehealth is cemented into health service provision and the minds of Australians, drop-offs in patient presentation such as that seen in March might be avoided in the future.
Telehealth could also open up the potential for a fresh clinical model focussing on how to deliver more optimal health outcomes through tech, meaning an increase in more specialised GP jobs and other healthcare jobs as part of the evolution of telehealth.
So, for all the negatives that COVID-19 has brought, the now slowly receding pandemic might throw up some silver linings for both those seeking healthcare, and for medical and healthcare professions more broadly.
If you're wanting to learn more about how gorilla jobs can help you with you find a telehealth role that suits you, check out our heath care jobs. & speak to one of our team today.
Have a great week & stay safe.