Telehealth extension a relief, but not enough

The Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi) has welcomed the three-month
extension to telehealth but says it needs to be made permanent.

AAPi Executive Director Tegan Carrison said a short term extension does not give clients or
registered psychologists the certainty they need.

“Telehealth has proven to be life-changing for so many people, in particular those with
mental health issues."

“To be able to offer it as a permanent service will make a significant difference to the
practitioner/client relationship and result in better health outcomes,” she said.

“Last July the Federal Health Minister said he hoped and intended for telehealth to be a
positive legacy of the pandemic and that he was ‘ already engaged with the medical
community in planning a long-term future for telehealth’."

“Three months is certainly not a long-term future. Many clients make appointments eight
weeks ahead of time. Our members need assurance that telehealth is here to stay, and we
hope the government will now put in the legislative effort required to make telehealth a truly
permanent offering.”

Ms Carrison said the government held out until just two weeks before telehealth was due to
expire before announcing the extension.

“This caused considerable stress and anxiety for clients and psychologists. We are asking
the government to plan for the next phase for telehealth well in advance of the new 30 June
2021 deadline,” she said.

“Telehealth is not only required in response to COVID-19. Telehealth has increased access
to psychologists for hundreds of thousands of Australians. It has become a life saving
option for many who would struggle to physically see a registered psychologist. We need a
responsive healthcare system that can adapt to the changes occurring in our society."

“Telehealth is not an added expense for the government or taxpayers, it is simply a different
and flexible delivery method that helps to support the most vulnerable in our community to
seek the care they need - when and where they need it.”

A survey of AAPi members in October 2020 found that 91 percent of psychologists
supported telehealth being made permanent.

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