News Coronavirus Telehealth has saved lives in the pandemic, and its future is up for debate

Telehealth has saved lives in the pandemic, and its future is up for debate

Telehealth is considered crucial to combatting COVID-19. Photo: Getty
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More Australians are embracing telehealth to avoid face-to-face consultations during the coronavirus pandemic.

And in some cases, the service has been saving lives.

Townsville man Steve Garlick, 61, works as a project manager for a coal mine in Indonesia, so he spends a lot of time flying back and forth.

The convenience of receiving medical care through telehealth platform Maxwell Plus has been a total game-changer.

Without it, Mr Garlick said his aggressive form of prostate cancer would never have been detected.

“I had no symptoms. Everything seemed fine,” he told The New Daily. 

“A year or two down the track, I would’ve been gone.”

Telehealth services like Maxwell Plus, which uses artificial intelligence to detect prostate cancer, helps people get medical help over the phone, online or using video technology like FaceTime or Zoom.

To encourage people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has been subsidising telehealth services through Medicare.

The service is due to end on September 30, but the government has said it will consider an extension.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid is leading a group of doctors pushing to extend the deadline to March.

“Telehealth remains fundamental to our national efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ending the temporary Medicare arrangements in September would be premature,” Dr Khorshid said on Thursday.

He said the scheme was vital to ensure Australians who were self-isolating at home could still access medical care.

Patients can access teleheath services through Medicare if they are a regular patient of a GP or medical practice, or have been an active patient within the past year.

And Mr Garlick couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

“Most men put it off because they don’t want to know the result,” he said.

“But when you go through it you think, ‘Thank God I did’.

“The end result is worse than the fear of the journey.”

-with AAP