Virtual consultations have rapidly expanded across the health sector, with many Australians now preferring this option to their traditional appointment. When COVID-19 hit, appointments moved online to protect patients and staff from possible community transmission and online services expanded to include a range of specialists and mental health professionals. Telehealth appointments were no longer just for rural Australians, but also for those who needed to see their doctor or psychologist in the same suburb, but could no longer see them in person due to the restrictions.
At first, many didn’t embrace the idea of Telehealth counselling. They had doubts about how well it worked and considered it second rate to being in the same room. But often after the first appointment many report that they prefer Telehealth due to both the flexibility and time saved. As lockdowns lifted and the option to return to in-person consultations returned, many patients chose to continue with virtual consultations and today up to 40% of counselling consultations are held via telehealth.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth appointments are like normal medical appointments but take place online or over the phone, rather than in the same room. Physical tests and medical procedures still need to be conducted face to face but for general consultations and mental health appointments, telehealth is an excellent option.
Benefits of Virtual Consultations
Telehealth consultations provide benefits for a range of people, from those who prefer to social distance due to health concerns, to those with a busy schedule.
Some clients find it difficult to attend appointments in person. They may have a physical injury or illness that precludes them from driving and have to rely on family or friends to take them to appointments which means limited privacy.
A patient may be attending regular appointments for physical treatment, so a virtual counselling appointment means one less appointment they need transport to attend.
The time it takes some patients to travel to and from appointments is often longer than the appointment itself. A 50 minute appointment even 10 kilometres away can mean a patient misses more than two hours of work, school or family time with travel and waiting time.
For people living in rural locations, a round trip to attend a counselling session in person can take several hours or even days of travel. Virtual counselling sessions cut out all travel time and give everyone the same opportunity of access to specialist health care staff.
More Flexible Appointments
With distance and travel time no longer a consideration, patients find it easier to fit appointments into their busy schedules. For some, leaving work early is not always possible. The greater flexibility means they can fit in an appointment during their lunch break or before work. They can see their psychologist more often and within a shorter lead time because the virtual appointment offers more flexibility.
Appointments Within the Comfort of Home
For some patients, leaving their home to attend an appointment is stressful. With an online psychologist they can stay home and avoid the stress and anxiety. When a patient is in a more relaxed mind frame in the comfort of their home, it’s likely they’ll gain more from the session than if they were attending in person.
For some clients, especially in rural and remote locations, the local psychologists can be known to them, or they may bump into friends and family in the waiting room and worry about the gossip that can follow. This presents many ethical issues, especially where a social relationship exists between a client and their therapist. Prior knowledge of your therapist can act as a block to successful treatment and often prevents people from seeking support in the first place.
Online psychologist sessions mean accessing professionals from anywhere in the country with complete confidentiality and without the worry of feedback from your community.
More Appointments Available
Healthcare staff conducting telehealth appointments from home also save considerable time each day not needing to travel to their rooms. At a time when the demand for mental health services has never been so high, it’s important that psychologists are seeing as many patients as possible. Instead of sitting in traffic, they may spend that time speaking to extra patients who may otherwise be sitting on a waitlist.
Our telehealth sessions are run as a digital face-to-face consultation, so you can still see and talk to your psychologist as usual, just in the comfort of your own home. To find out more about telehealth or to make an appointment, call PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.