Everyone has had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. For the health industry, one of the biggest changes has been the increase in the number of telehealth consultations compared to face to face appointments being conducted. Patients are choosing to stay home and stay safe by meeting with their health professional over the phone or PC, where possible.
A telehealth consultation is the same as a standard appointment but occurs over the phone or internet. Telehealth appointments are taking place all over Australia with GP’s, specialists and psychologists. While many people have enjoyed the benefit of not having to leave home to attend appointments, others are hesitant to try telehealth.
Telehealth counselling has been conducted for over a decade, predominantly for people living in remote parts of Australia where access to a psychologist may be several hours drive. Travelling long distances to appointments is a major cause for people to stop seeking treatment. With the recent lockdowns, telehealth counselling has expanded to city areas, so anyone can have fast and confidential access to mental health and medical services.
Research has been used to monitor the effectiveness of phone and internet appointments long before the pandemic began. The mental health industry has ensured that patients in remote areas are receiving the same level of care and successful outcomes as their metropolitan cousins who were seeing a psychologist face to face.
Research as far back as 2013 analysed the findings of 26 studies comparing the results of telehealth versus in-person appointments for adults and children. The research found telehealth technologies provided roughly the equivalent clinical outcomes. These included reductions in symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, binge and purge behaviours, abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The studies also revealed equivalent outcomes in process variables such as attrition, adherence, satisfaction and expectancy as traditional in-person treatments.
One study compared the results of in-office versus telehealth appointments of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). It found the ‘telehealth group experienced a faster rate of decline in symptoms of depression than the in-person group.’ Telehealth families also reported a high level of satisfaction and treatment and many said they preferred telehealth appointments to face-to face ones.
It was on the back of much research, that the Australian Psychological Society was confident that telehealth appointments could be conducted successfully to large numbers of patients in metropolitan areas across Australia when the pandemic struck.
Besides staying home to reduce their risk of being infected by COVID-19, many patients have tried telehealth appointments and discovered a range of benefits. They no longer need to take as much time off work or out of their day to commute to appointments. Some patients feel less anxious and more comfortable in their own home rather than in a consultation room. For others, they feel the appointments are more confidential and they don’t have to worry about someone they know seeing them enter the building or in the waiting room.
The pandemic and lockdowns have resulted in a large number of Australians needing to speak to a psychologist. Telehealth consultations mean no long commutes to the office for psychologists, so they can spend that extra time speaking to patients.
For some people however, telehealth appointments aren’t the best option. They may not have access to a private space they need to attend a telehealth appointment. If you’re in need of a consultation in our rooms for any reason, please make contact and we can help make arrangements.
If you would like to speak with one of our experienced psychologists but you’re unsure about a telehealth consultation, give it a try. There’s no difficult technology to navigate, we’ll provide you with information and assist you every step of the way. If you experience problems with the technology during your appointment, we can always reschedule.
To find out more about telehealth or to make an appointment, call 1300 307 912 or contact us online.