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What does telehealth involve?

Q-Psych offers secure telehealth services for suitable clients, including those who need or choose to self-isolate during COVID-19 (click here to see if telehealth is indicated for you). The following information is provided to help you make an informed decision about using telehealth for your psychology service. Information in italics is verbatim from the source.

What is telehealth or telepsychology?

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), defines telehealth as healthcare delivery or related activities that use any form of technology as an alternative to face-to-face consultations. It includes, but is not restricted to, videoconferencing, internet and telephone. It does not refer to the use of technology during a face-to-face consultation. Telepsychology is a term often used to refer to psychology services provided by telehealth.

Both AHPRA and Medicare advice that videoconference services are the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation. However, telephone can be used if video is not available. Email, online chat and text messaging do not constitute a telehealth session.

What is videoconferencing?

telehealthA videoconference (or video call) is similar to how you might connect with family, friends or business associates via video call applications, like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom – except those applications are not designed or secured for the delivery of health services. See what platforms we use, below.

Who can provide telehealth services?

AHPRA and Medicare have approved all registered health practitioners to use telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as telehealth is safe and clinically appropriate for the health service being provided.

Who can receive telehealth services?

Potentially anyone with access to a phone or computer and internet can receive a telehealth service. However, telepsychology is not suitable for all clients. Factors to consider include:

  • the client’s capacity to use technology (e.g. know-how or cognitive impairment);
  • age of the client (e.g. telehealth is considered less effective with young children);
  • any barriers to engaging in telehealth, such as visual or hearing impairment, language or communication barriers, and some mental health symptoms;
  • the type of service sought or required (e.g. some interventions and assessments are not suited to telehealth);
  • the client’s environment for telehealth (e.g. whether suitably private and safe);
  • complexity of the client’s problem or degree of psychological disturbance or distress;
  • safety concerns (e.g. if the client is in crisis or at risk of harm to self and others); and
  • the quality of the client’s social supports.

A client’s suitability for telehealth may change over time and should be regularly reviewed.

What is the standard of care for telehealth?

AHPRA expects all health practitioners, including psychologists, to ensure the standard of care provided in a telehealth consultation meets the same required standard of care provided in a face-to-face consultation. This means, the same level of privacy and confidentiality and ethical professional practice required for in-person services, applies to telehealth services. Practitioners must [also] ensure that their chosen telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws

What videoconferencing platforms does Q-Psych use?

Q-Psych recommends our psychologists use PowerDiary, P2P Telehealth or Coviu for their secure telehealth services (with flexibility of choice to suit). Each of these videoconferencing platforms were designed for Australian health practitioners and share the same robust security and privacy features, including:

  • peer-to-peer connection, so all data is transmitted only between you and your psychologist (not via a central server);
  • end-to-end encryption, so data cannot be accessed/decrypted by a third party;
  • Australian-based, so built to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles;
  • do not require you to install any applications or to sign-up as a user, so only your psychologist’s user details are saved (on Australian servers);
  • do not retain any data from the video call, so only your psychologist will keep information from your session in accordance with our privacy policy; and
  • easy to connect-up by clicking a secure link that we will send you (that’s it).

The only differences between these platforms are their look/feel, functionality and costs. *Check out the explainer video (bottom of this page) to see how a telehealth session works.

What are the benefits and limitations of telehealth?

Telehealth has numerous benefits for clients and can be as effective as in-person therapy for common mental health conditions. However, it also comes with some limitations and risks.

Benefits of telehealth include:
  • the general convenience of accessing a psychology service from virtually anywhere, such as your home or office or out-of-town;
  • better accessibility to psychological services for individuals who
    • live in rural or remote areas, or
    • have a disability or mobility issues, or
    • are housebound (e.g. due to illness, injury or a chronic health condition), or
    • have transport issues, or
    • are fly-in fly-out workers.
  • the use of interactive technologies and online materials or videos in session;
  • continuity of treatment and services with your therapist if you or they relocate;
  • some people can feel more comfortable or less inhibited engaging in therapy online; and
  • studies have found that therapeutic outcomes, client satisfaction and the quality of the therapeutic relationship are generally similar for telepsychology and in-person therapy (at least for the populations and therapies studied).
Limitations and risks of telehealth include:
  • not all clients have access to the technology required for telehealth;
  • technology can be unreliable, so the service may be disrupted or end prematurely;
  • remote therapy isn’t for everyone – some clients simply prefer or benefit more from traditional in-person services;
  • an online format isn’t for everyone – some clients don’t feel confident using technology or are uncomfortable being on screen, which may increase anxiety or stress;
  • some clients may not have a suitably private or safe place to engage in therapy or to debrief afterwards;
  • body language and other non-verbal cues can be missed or misinterpreted, and may result in misunderstandings or misdiagnosis;
  • some cornerstones of therapy, such as rapport and engagement, may not be as easily developed online for some clients;
  • some interventions may be less effective or not safe to deliver via telehealth;
  • the psychologist can’t usually respond as quickly or effectively if a crisis occurs;
  • telehealth is not suitable for everyone (see who can receive a telehealth service); and
  • more research is needed to show the effectiveness of telehealth for a wider range of presentations, interventions and services.

Are rebates available for telehealth?

Rebates for telehealth are usually limited to rural and remote clients. However, Medicare rebates are presently available for all Australians to access telehealth until 30 September 2020. Most private health funds and Government-affiliated third parties are also funding telehealth during COVID-19. Click here for more information on rebates and funding.

Preparing for a telehealth session

If you’re considering a telehealth service, click here for more important information about:

  1. what equipment is needed for telehealth;
  2. the process involved in a telehealth appointment;
  3. how to prepare for a telehealth session; and
  4. some final questions to ask yourself.

Explainer video

This helpful video by P2P Telehealth provides a brief explanation of how their video-conferencing platform works (which is basically the same as for PowerDiary and Coviu).

 

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