The Australian Psychological Society (APS) welcomes the Government’s recognition of the needs of people in rural and remote Australia with the announcement yesterday that people living in these areas will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists.
APS President Anthony Cichello, says the move will provide greater equity of access to evidence-based psychological care for Australians living in small country towns, remote and very remote Australia.
“The number of people with mental health and behavioural problems, and high psychological distress is roughly the same regardless of where people live in Australia”, says Mr Cichello.
“But people living in rural and remote regions have far greater difficulty accessing effective psychological treatment than those living in cities.”
He says enabling psychology services to be delivered by telehealth - such as online videoconferencing, will bolster the existing psychology workforce in rural and remote Australia.
“It will substantially assist the current workforce to meet the needs of people living outside urban regions, and attract more psychologists to work in regional Australia,” he said.
APS Executive Director Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM, says the proposed changes are consistent with the APS 2017–18 pre-budget submission to Government, which called for the expansion of Better Access to include delivery of psychological services by telehealth to people in rural and remote Australia.
Professor Littlefield says there is a growing evidence-base highlighting the effectiveness of psychological services for many common conditions including depression, anxiety, adjustment disorders and a range of other mental health problems.
“Enabling psychology services to be delivered by telehealth will build the capacity of Better Access to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians, including those who live in geographically isolated areas,” says Professor Littlefield.