How telehealth is bridging Australia’s mental health inequities
Mental health support for rural and remote Australians can only be provided comprehensively through telehealth
Almost half of all Australians will suffer from mental illness at some stage in their lives, yet many will refuse, or be unable to seek professional help due to social stigmas and a lack of access to services. Remote and regional dwellers are particularly affected, as geographical and social isolation can reduce the number of mental health services available.
Some inequities include :
- Death by suicide is almost twice as likely to occur for rural dwellers, as opposed to city inhabitants.
- Remote dwellers have access to 1/5th the number of health services of those living in the city.
- Rates of risky drinking, methamphetamine, opioid, and cannabis use were all highest in rural areas.
Improved access to services, early intervention and swift referrals to mental health specialists are essential to prevent serious complications from occurring down the line.
Mental health professionals are amongst the earliest adopters of telehealth, as they have realised the array of benefits for their patients and practices. This is due to the fact that most mental health consultations are intimate one-on-one conversations that don’t always require physical consultation rooms.
The adoption of telehealth reduces travel time for healthcare providers, offers unparalleled flexibility and allows for maximisation of compensation around scheduled appointments. Telehealth also improves access for rural and remote dwellers by reducing barriers such as geographical location and lessening the impact of stigmas by offering private, secure sessions from the comfort of their own home.
The Australian Government has acknowledged the importance of telehealth in improving access to mental health services for regional, remote and rural Australians. In 2017, the federal budget dedicated $9.1 million as part of the Better Access initiative.
All 10 sessions can be claimed through Medicare when part of the ‘mental health care plan’. Telehealth software, such as Coviu provides, the perfect platform for clinicians to offer regional and remote Australians access to mental health services.