More than four million Australians living with heart, stroke and blood vessel disease will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth services until the end of the year.
The Heart Foundation has welcomed the decision made today by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt MP, to extend funding for telehealth services until December 31, but calls for the service to be made permanently available through Medicare.
Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said telehealth offers vital support for millions of Australians living with cardiovascular disease, which includes heart, stroke and blood vessel disease, as well as those recovering from heart events.
“More than four million Australians live with heart, stroke or blood vessel disease and hundreds of thousands of Australians experience heart attacks, strokes or heart surgery every year.
“Appropriate access to healthcare is the lifeline that gives these people the best chance to recover and stay well. For many Australians, that access is dependent on telehealth,” Professor Kelly said.
“Whether it’s someone living with a heart condition who has to travel thousands of kilometres to their closest doctor or someone in the city recovering from a heart attack who can’t visit their GP in-person, telehealth consultations have given people nationwide access to expert health care.”
Professor Kelly said the Federally-funded expansion of Medicare-subsidised telehealth services in March 2020 allowed tens of millions of appointments to be delivered online or by phone.
“In January this year the MBS recorded well over 130,000 telehealth visits for the management of chronic disease alone. Digital consultations accounted for 15 per cent of total visits in that category, which includes cardiovascular disease, making it possible to maintain services at the same level as pre-pandemic. This is a huge achievement.”
Telehealth consultations allow people to speak with their GPs or their cardiologists quickly and safely via phone or video conference, about concerns relating directly to their heart health, and about other health or chronic disease concerns.
“This reduces stress on the health system by preventing a backlog of undiagnosed conditions or relapses in chronic diseases which may end in hospitalisations or death.
“Telehealth funding also protects and supports our health professionals, reducing pressure on face-to-face services while still allowing them to provide the continuity of care that is so vital for people living with chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease.”