Being a new mum is hard enough, let along being a new mum in the middle of a pandemic, especially when you're worried about yourself or your baby and need medical advice. Telehealth is a new “it” word in our everyday vocabulary, and describes situations where doctors and other health professionals can do consultations using platforms such as Skype, Zoom or Facetime for example.
To help answer your questions about Telehealth One Fine Baby speaks to GP Obstetrician and Visiting Medical Officer Dr. Sarah Gleeson, Co-Founder and Director of Family HQ.
Due to COVID-19, GPs are limiting face-to-face appointments to protect patients and their staff. This works by limiting the amount of people interacting in the waiting rooms and throughout the practice.
Normally when you see your GP, Medicare provides you with a rebate for a portion (about 50%) of the cost of the appointment. If you are bulk-billed, your GP accepts that rebate as full payment for the consultation. In the past, patients were unable to access a Medicare rebate for telehealth consultations with their GP. The Australian government has introduced new Medicare item numbers which provide funding for healthcare workers to provide consultations by video call or telephone during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most GPs will be offering you the option of a telehealth appointment because, for the vast majority of families, it is safer for you to be at home at the moment. As you can imagine, it is much easier to do this with a doctor you already know, so where possible please continue to see a doctor that’s familiar with your medical history.
But what if I need to actually SEE the GP? I hear you ask. We know there are always some appointments that need to be done face-to-face, for example; immunisations, baby checks, pap smears, wound care, skin cancer removal. We want to make sure we continue to provide excellent primary care, and will liaise with you about the safest way to make sure your health needs are met.
Each healthcare provider will use different systems, including Skype, Zoom, Health Direct and GP consults. These platforms can be used on your phone/laptop/tablet/desktop. If you are having a phone consult, it will either come from the practice land line, or a private number as your GP will have their caller ID blocked. Check with your local healthcare provider about their booking processes.
Just like ‘the old days’ you will be given an estimated appointment time, and will need to be ready for the call. If you can be well prepared it helps you make the most of your appointment time.
Just like in pre-COVID times, you may have to wait for your appointment. Connectivity issues are making running to time a greater challenge and we appreciate your patience. Your GP may ask you to confirm your date of birth and address to make sure they’re speaking with the right person.
Blood test forms, imaging forms and scripts can be faxed or delivered to pathology and radiology services and chemists of your choice.
If your GP thinks that you need to be seen face-to-face, or have treatment administered, they will arrange for this to be done.
There is a lot of information your GP can gain over the phone or video to help them decide whether your child needs a face-to-face appointment, a visit to Emergency, or if they can be safely managed at home. There is also a LOT of things parents can do at home BEFORE the appointment to help us make that assessment. We will ask you questions about their:
If you can have a think about these things BEFORE the appointment, and jot some information down, it will allow us to more accurately assess your child. We may also ask you to show us specific things (like their breathing pattern) on the video call, and may direct you to check some more things for us.
Telehealth is a great way to keep you and your family, your healthcare providers and the most vulnerable members of our community safe in the time of COVID-19, and may provide some flexibility about how you see your GP in the future.
Check out the resources section at www.familyhq.com.au for our trusted resources.
Dr Sarah Gleeson
MBBS, DRANZCOG (Adv), FRACGP, FARGP.