Up to 10 Medicare rebates for Better Access to Mental Health
Telehealth consultations are now available for eligible people located in rural and remote communities
Why Is this fantastic news?
- There is no need to travel, you can access therapy in the
comfort of your home or work, or another place that is quiet and
- It eliminates the problem of attending your appointments if you
have mobility problems, anxiety issues that makes it difficult to
leave home, or are geographically remote
- You will save hours of your time and $ not needing to physically
- As you will choose your location there’s no need to worry about
bumping in to people you know
- Telehealth entitles eligible people to the same Medicare rebate
as face-to-face therapy, with the same clinicians but as the sessions are less expensive for us to run, we pass that saving on to you.
To be eligible for the Medicare rebate you must:
- Have a GP Mental Health Care plan and referral or a letter from your Psychiatrist
- Be located within a Telehealth eligible area at the time of the appointment (Your GP should be able to check this) or you can follow this link and check on the map or location guide. Eligible areas are classified as MMM4-7
- Be located at least 15 kms. by road from the eligible health
- Not be in hospital
Online counselling and therapy is also accessible via several other routes, you can
- Use your NDIS plan and funding
- To access online assessment, counselling and therapy with Psychological Health and Wellbeing Services you can also use your NDIS funding if you have a budget and goals identified in for ‘Therapeutic Supports’ in your CB Daily Living budget
You can use your Workcover and iCare plans
- Sometimes Sira and iCare will also approve counselling and therapy to be delivered via videolink, you can ask your case manager about this option
You can fund the sessions yourself
- You can also choose to self-fund the sessions
- You will need a computer, tablet or smart phone with a camera,
speaker and microphone.
- Internet broadband or a strong reliable internet connection is
essential. You can test yours at www.speedtest.telstra.com
- You will need to download the zoom app before the first appointment
- More technical info can be found at https:/www.zoom.us
- And of course you will need a quiet confidential place to talk. This could be at home, work, or even in the car wherever it suits you and you’re comfortable
Telehealth counselling refers to a videoconference consultation involving communication between you and your clinician using both a video and audio connection. This is similar to connecting with family, friends or business contacts using programs such as FaceTime or Skype. As we need to ensure that the session is confidential we use a service called Zoom.
Many teenagers, adults and couples find talking to a therapist online the best option for them in terms of availability, convenience and affordability. Many psychotherapists, psychologist and counsellors now offer therapy by online video call and have undertaken courses specifically related to providing therapy online. A recent review of studies published by the World Journal of Psychiatry found that patients receiving online counselling by video chat reported ‘high levels of satisfaction’.
Although some people may be sceptical about online counselling, there have been studies published that advocate its benefits, including patients reporting ‘high levels of satisfaction’ in a review by The World Journal of Psychiatry and a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which found that online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) effectively reduced symptoms of depression and other mental health issues amongst participants.
There is less evidence for email or messaging counselling. Subtle cues such as body language, facial expressions and the tone of voice that someone uses can help us to understand the meaning of what someone says in any situation. These elements of communication are lost with words alone. Therefore some argue that online counselling by webcam might be more helpful for both therapists and clients to understand each other. Non-verbal communication can also help therapists to listen more deeply to their patients, helping them to gain further insight into how their patients are feeling and in turn to understand how best to work with them. So for those reasons, at this time we will not be offering counselling by written communication.
While an online counselling chat by Skype would mean that both therapist and patient can see each other and hear each other, other methods of online counselling such as email and text message rely only on written communication.. However, there are ample research studies which find that online counselling is as effective as in person counselling.
To be eligible to receive these services under Medicare for a mental health condition, you must:
- have an eligible mental health condition and a referral from a GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician
- live in an eligible rural, remote or very remote location
- be located at least 15 kilometres by road from the mental health professional
- not be a patient of an emergency department or admitted to hospital at the time of the service.
Consultations via videoconferencing may not be appropriate for all people, particularly if there is concern that a person is at risk of doing harm to themselves or others, or if the patient does not have access to reliable or affordable broadband and/or technology required for video conferencing. Your GP should talk with you about your personal situation.
Access and choice: Real-time telehealth consultations make it easier to access psychological services in rural and remote areas of Australia. It is widely recognised that there is a scarcity of mental health professionals in some of the more remote areas of Australia, and this can act as a significant barrier for those who need to access these services.
The demand for mental health services in rural and regional Australia is growing, including in regions impacted by drought. Enhanced telehealth arrangements will enable Australians who live in rural and remote Australia to claim a Medicare rebate for video consultations for mental health consultations with eligible health practitioners. It also means that even if you are local to the therapist, you can choose to engage in counselling/therapy online. Couples who may be in different locations are also able to join the same session and meet with the counsellor for couples therapy.
Convenience: Telehealth consultations mean that, if you have a computer, tablet or smartphone, you can access services in the comfort of your own home. No travel time, no travel expenses, no extended time away from work or home. Even if you don’t, you can have a chat with your GP about accessing a computer at the practice, local community centre or even a quiet room in a library. Some people make appointments that suit their work hours, for example at lunch time or before or after work. Whether you travel for work or suffer illnesses that make it difficult to leave the house, provided you have a quiet private space and an internet connection, you can see your counsellor.
Privacy: If you live in a small town or community, you may be worried about your privacy when seeing a mental health professional. You may be worried that you will run into your therapist outside of your therapy session, that you may be connected to your therapist through other acquaintances or that other people will know that you are seeing a counsellor or therapist. In this case, scheduling an online counselling session with a therapist who lives in a different location may give you more peace of mind and ease these concerns. Your clinician will explain the steps they’ll take to protect your privacy and confidentiality.
Dual location relationship counselling: Online relationship counselling might be an option for you and your partner or other family members when you are living in different locations, either temporarily or permanently. In this way, you can engage with group or couple relationship counselling online together, which would not be possible otherwise.
Cost: As the overheads are lower when consulting via videoconferencing we are able to pass that saving on to you by reducing the normal cost of the appointment, making more affordable for more people.
The Modified Monash Model (MMM) was recently developed geographical classification system, using up-to-date population data, which the Government use to better address the distribution of medical services across Australia. To find out if your location is eligible follow the link and pop in your location. Locations MMM4-7 are eligible locations.
- Talk to your GP and find out if you are eligible for a GP Mental Health Care plan?
- If you are they will also write you a referral. We will need a copy of that referral to start the process
- Ask your GP to fax a copy of your referral to us and if it’s okay with you a copy of your Mental Health Care Plan
- Then, one of our friendly admin staff will call you, usually within a day, to take a few more details and talk through the process with you
- Whilst your waiting for one of our admin staff to call you, think about where and on what device you would like to attend your
sessions. Remember you need it to be a quite space, where you won’t be interrupted or overheard
- You will make your first appointment and pay your deposit over the phone
- We then email you a welcome pack including the details of how to access your therapy room. We’re happy to have a trial run
with you if that would help
- Following your first appointment you will be able to make your own future appointments and pay for your appointments online
- We can process your Medicare rebate for you, which you normally receive into your bank account within 48 hours
The cost of the session will vary depending on the length of the consultation, the fee being charged by the mental health professional, and if you are entitled to a Medicare rebate, or you maybe able to your Health Fund to offset some of the cost.
There are no downloads to pay for so it doesn’t cost you anything if you access the Telehealth consultation using your personal technology (e.g., smart phone, laptop or iPad) but you will be responsible for your own internet data and/or phone charges.
If you are eligible for Medicare rebated Telehealth psychological services, you can receive up to 10 Telehealth sessions with a mental health professional per calendar year. In addition you can also access up to 10 group sessions via Telehealth.
If you are accessing Telehealth through your Workcover or Icare plan, the number of sessions will depend on your personal situation and will be negotiated with your case manager and clinician.
To be able to claim the Medicare telehealth benefit the requirement is for both a video and audio link to be used to conduct the consultation. Medicare telehealth benefits are not payable for email or telephone consultations. This also includes online chat box/messaging as there is no visual and audio link.
Yes, definitely, but you will not be able to claim a Medicare rebate.
Some health funds will also contribute to the cost of the appointments. Please check what your policy will cover.
To access the Better Access Medicare rebate the psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist must hold a Medicare provider number and have the correct training.
A range of other health and allied health professionals also offer appointments using Telehealth technology. For example, here at PHaWS we have Level 3 counsellors who are registered with the peak body, Australian Counselling Association, who offer Telehealth appointments.
You will need access to a quiet, private space; a device, i.e. smartphone, laptop, iPad, computer, with a camera, microphone and speakers; and a reliable broadband internet connection.
If you don’t have the necessary equipment it may be possible to access telehealth equipment through your GP or local community centre.