As we wrote back in June 2020, it always looked likely that telehealth would be here to stay. The data and evidence was undeniable - but what does shifting to telehealth mean for GPs and working from home (WFH)?
Besides the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of the more important announcements in Australian doctor news in 2020 was made in November where Health Minister Greg Hunt made a landmark decision that would forever affect GPs and patients alike.
“One thing that has come from COVID is the fact that we have skipped a decade and jumped from 2030 to 2020 for the delivery of telehealth for all Australians –universal, whole-of-population telehealth – and it will now be permanent,” said Minister Hunt.
As we wrote back in doctor news June 2020, it always looked likely that telehealth would be here to stay. The data and evidence of its efficacy was undeniable - telehealth was a resounding success in managing the pandemic.
And while there were some issues attached to it, such as a drop in those attending a GP to manage chronic medical conditions, the main medical advocacy groups, such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), were heavily supportive. But now that telehealth is here to stay in Australia, what does it mean for GPs?
Telehealth and Working From Home: The Basics
The underlying principle of telehealth is simple: improving access. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian federal government saw a usefulness well beyond this during periods of lockdown across the country. Telehealth also became about protection from infection for patients, healthcare staff (particularly GPs) and the wider community - a key tool in managing the pandemic. Measures were put in place to ensure telehealth worked efficiently and within its scope, including requirements around technology and its use, bulk billing, the kinds of health professionals who could use it and around the issuing of scripts.
Many GPs still worked from their clinics during the pandemic to accommodate face-to-face presentations that could not be dealt with by telehealth. However, just as it did for many other professionals, the opportunity to work from home (WFH) for GFs also became a possibility.
GPs and WFH
The concept of WFH for GPs might seem at odds with their profession, but telehealth and what it led to - the democratisation of providing health services for all - has changed this.
While telehealth isn’t the panacea to ensuring optimal access to healthcare, in a country the size of Australia with rural and remote communities that struggle at times to attract a local GP, it is a great boon. And for those who struggle to attend GP clinics face to face in urban areas, it provided easier and more reliable access.
So, as a GP who might be in a position to either part or full-time WFH throughout the rest of the pandemic, and even beyond, there are some considerations you need to take into account.
First and foremost, you must keep abreast of any doctor news that comes out around the provision of telehealth. A good place to start is the Department of Health - an extensive list of factsheets produced by the federal government can be found here for any clarification GPs or other health professionals may require. Following the AMA and its regular doctor news is also highly recommended.
But you must also think about its impact on you, both professionally and personally. For while there are some clear benefits for GPs, you also need to ensure WFH is set up in a way such that you take care of yourself and make it work as effectively, practically and with your own welfare in mind as possible.
Healthline has produced a great WFH checklist. It’s main categories cover many of the basics of working from home that would be useful to read through if you currently WFH or intending to do so:
- Tips for newbies
- For parents
- For people with anxiety
- For people without an office
- For those with a partner
- For seasoned pros
- Effective breaks
The wash up on telehealth and WFH
WFH and telehealth will remain a permanent fixture in the health provision landscape, meaning in the near future and beyond more GPs will potentially have the option to take WFH up, if they haven’t already.
So, as with all things in your professional life, be prepared. Gorilla Jobs is seeing more WFH opportunities for GPs and allied health professionals come our way, so if there is anything we can do to help you with your search, reach out to us today!
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