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Telehealth to be permanently funded

Physio telehealth is here to stay
Photo: Physio telehealth is here to stay
Last month, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that telehealth would be permanently funded – a move welcomed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

According to the association, while COVID-19 restrictions forced many physiotherapy patients into telehealth, the degree of satisfaction has been high, with clear signs that telehealth demand is here to stay.

“The announcement of ongoing MBS funding for allied health services will give physios another tool in their significant repertoire to deliver a range of vital services to Australians,” said APA National President Phil Calvert.

“Ongoing health funding that covers both in-person and telehealth service delivery will allow Australians to choose what is best for their needs, in conjunction with their clinician.”
Mr Calvert said while there would always be a place for in-person care, demand for health consultations via video was definitely growing.

“It will lead to better outcomes for our communities and the health sector as a whole.”

Kathryn Anderson, Director of Viva Physiotherapy - which incorporated telehealth just before COVID-19 hit - also welcomed the announcement.

“Telehealth has been a hugely successful as a way of managing health throughout the pandemic,” she said.

“We have managed to advance our healthcare system forward in just a few short months, an achievement which would otherwise have taken 10 years.

“It has been particularly useful for those who find it more difficult to leave the house, such as those in acute pain or after birth, however, even just the opportunity to see a physio without travelling has meant your average worker has benefitted.”

Earlier this year the APA partnered with researchers from the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and Flinders University to gauge the effectiveness of telehealth during COVID-19.

Preliminary results showed most Australians who used physio telehealth were happy with the experience.

Key results included:
  • 94 per cent of patients found telehealth easy to use
  • 90 per cent of patients felt safe using telehealth
  • 87 per cent of patients thought telehealth was convenient
  • 80 per cent of patients were satisfied with telehealth as a form of treatment

The results demonstrate that telehealth demand is unlikely to reduce dramatically, even in a post-COVID world.

“Physiotherapy telehealth via video consultations have been shown to be safe, appropriate and cost effective for a vast number of clinical presentations,” said Mr Calvert.

“Access to physiotherapy for Australians with disabilities or those who live outside of our major metro and regional centres is poor.

“Telehealth offers a solution that allows equal access in a safe and effective manner. This is exactly the type of health care we need to continue.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.