Fair access General Practice Mental Health Online consultations Video Consultations

How to Provide Affordable Mental Health Care to Rural Australia

Poor mental health is one of Australia’s greatest health care burdens, with almost half the population experiencing mental illness at some point in their lives. Despite its prevalence, roughly 54% of those experiencing poor mental health will not access any treatment.

To make matters worse, rural and remote dwellers experience significantly higher levels of suicide and self-harm, yet do not have equal access to mental health care providers. Severe environmental conditions,  fewer job opportunities, lower incomes, stronger negative stigmas about mental health and geographical isolation are all factors that influence the rural mental health crisis.

Telehealth is attempting to close the healthcare gap that exists between rural and urban dwellers, by improving access to health services.

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Telehealth video consultations or text sessions are particularly effective in rural and remote areas due to their ability to break down the barrier of distance and avoid negative stigmas. Patients can have private sessions with licensed professionals from the comfort of their own home. They can also save both time and money that would otherwise be used for travelling to and from the practitioner’s office.

Luckily, the government has begun to recognise the importance of telehealth for rural mental health. There are now a range of Medicare item numbers available to patients and practitioners, to ensure telehealth is affordable and included in the traditional mental health care plan. More are likely to come.

Medicare telehealth items currently available :

  • General Practitioners:

Drought Affected Communities Programme – This scheme allows telehealth eligible GPs to provide mental health and well-being support to rural Australians.

Better Access Scheme – GP Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) – GPs with Focussed Psychological Strategy training can provide telehealth services to eligible patients as part of their mental health care plan.

Psychologists and clinical psychologists can provide telehealth services to eligible patients as part of their mental health care plan.

Psychiatrists can provide telehealth services to eligible patients as part of their mental health care plan.

Social workers and occupational therapists with Focussed Psychological Strategy training can provide telehealth services to eligible patients as part of their mental health care plan.

More support may be accessible via the Department of Veteran Affairs, National Disability Insurance Scheme, Carers allowance (Department of Human Services) and your Private Health Insurance. If these apply to you, we suggest contacting the organisations directly for details. 

To find a practitioner offering telehealth services via Coviu, click here.


Now you know HOW to access affordable telehealth, but WHAT do you need for a successful session?

  • A quiet, private space to use for your session.
  • A smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with a camera, microphone and speaker (generally already built-in).
  • A reliable broadband internet connection.
  • Headphones with an in-built microphone are optional.

Coviu software is browser-based, meaning there are no tricky downloads required. You can meet your doctor just by clicking a link!

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If your current provider does not offer currently offer telehealth, simply mention that you would like to see online – and send them our way.

If you are looking to adopt telehealth for your practice, please contact us here.

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