By Oliver Lees
A specialist physician based in the Macedon Ranges has welcomed the uptake of telehealth services throughout the pandemic and plans to incorporate the service into her practice indefinitely.
Telehealth allows individuals to schedule appointments and seek medical advice online.
The popularity of the service has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with federal government data indicating that more than 13.5 million individual patient consultations used telehealth in the year to March 31, 2021.
The federal government has added a number of temporary Medicare items to help health practitioners deliver health services over the phone or via video conferencing.
As a physician specialising in treating chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia, Dr Karen Hitchcock said telehealth has allowed her to treat some patients that otherwise couldn’t access her services.
“I had never done it before in my life before the pandemic, I thought it would be really horrible,” Dr Hitchcock said.
“But it’s not horrible at all. My patients love it, and I’ve felt I can still make a connection even through a computer screen.
“People who work full time used to have to take a full day off but now they can book on their lunch break. I’ve consulted successfully with tradies on construction sites and people walking in the park.
“And it gives a much better option for people that live with chronic pain, who can find it very difficult to get out of the house in the first place.”
Woodend resident Cassius Armstrong said telehealth has made it easier for him to seek pain relief for his broken foot.
“Now you don’t have to spend your time driving and waiting at a doctor’s reception just for them to say you need a script for medication,” Mr Armstrong said.
“I can consult my doctor from my home and go on with my day. It gives you your life back.
“It saves time, money and gives you your life back by giving you a better way of managing your health.”