“The majority of members discussing telehealth ... have been largely positive with members being happy that this is a service we now cover.” – Rachel Brasse, Senior Customer Solutions Consultant for Australian Unity.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic means the way most people engage with healthcare has now changed.
One of the biggest changes has been the implementation and use of telehealth services.
In response to COVID-19, we saw a rapid increase in the number of providers delivering their services over the phone or using video conferencing.
We covered more than 2300 telehealth claims throughout 2020, giving people a choice when looking for medical treatment, either at their doctor’s office or in the privacy of their own home.
But what is the experience like for the patient? What are the benefits? And how would a private health insurance member start to enjoy the flexibility of telehealth?
We spoke with a telehealth client and our own customer service experts to find out all you need to know about telehealth.
Connor’s telehealth story
For Rachel, an employee of Australian Unity, and her son Connor, telehealth was a godsend during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Connor was seeing a speech therapist on a regular basis, and instead of losing progress due to lockdown restrictions, continuing his program via telehealth meant his program wasn’t impeded.
“Instead of the service not being available due to lockdown restrictions, Connor continued to make progress within his program of work, so we didn’t lose a year,” Rachel says.
“This was important as Connor started high school this year and he didn’t want to be attending speech therapy anymore at what is a big and formative life moment.”
One of the greatest benefits of telehealth is the ability to deliver health and wellbeing solutions with increased flexibility, something that was important for Rachel, who noticed Connor felt better about attending his telehealth therapy sessions as there was no travel time.
“Connor was less grumpy about attending, our appointment is fortnightly at 3:45pm on a Friday,” she says.
“So it was a lot easier to allow him to have some downtime prior to the appointment because we didn’t have any travel time.
“I also found that his therapist got to know Connor better because he got to see into our household, so it prompted meaningful questions.”
Rachel says Connor quickly got used to the telehealth platform, working seamlessly with his speech therapist to continue making progress with his program.\
“Connor adapted exceptionally easily,” she says.
“We used a whiteboard for him to practice and then show his therapist his responses. His therapist then utilised the digital whiteboard from his end, so the technology really supported being able to do this in an effective way.”
Going forward, Rachel says they will continue to incorporate telehealth as part of Connor’s speech therapy sessions, as the ease and flexibility of the service makes life easier for everyone.
“Both Connor and I don’t want to lose the convenience of zero travel time,” Rachel says.
“We will balance it up with assessments being done face-to-face. Connor has performed a few assessments this year and we have officially seen great progress in his reading, comprehension and spelling.”
Providing a flexible option
By and large, the experience of our members when engaging with telehealth services has been overwhelmingly positive.
Rachel Brasse, Senior Customer Solutions Consultant for Australian Unity, says members have been highly impressed with the ease of the process and options to claim for the services.
“The majority of members discussing telehealth have had minimal issues,” she says.
“The response has been largely positive with members being happy that this is a service we now cover.
“It’s also very simple to claim for a telehealth service. We have many options available for members to choose from, including using our app, online member service, email, post, or calling us on 13 29 29.”
It’s important for members to ensure the service provided is on our list of telehealth approved services and that their cover provides benefits for that service.
Services claimable via telehealth are:
- Exercise Physiology
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Therapy
"It's important for members to ensure that the service they're claiming is on our list of telehealth approved services," Rachel adds. "Some members assume that all telehealth services are covered and may be disappointed when their claim is rejected."
Members also need to ensure they get an invoice from the provider to ensure they can claim for their telehealth consultation.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.