The Australian Psychological Society (APS) yesterday welcomed the the federal government’s announcement that people living in isolated and rural areas will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists.
APS president Anthony Cichello said 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,’ Mr Cichello said. ‘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 said 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 said 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.