COVID-19 CHANGES TO TELEHEALTH SERVICES
The Australian government has made telehealth-based mental health services available to all Australians until September 2020. This means that anyone, regardless of where you live, can now consult a Psychologist by telephone or videoconference.
Medicare provides rebates for up to 10 individual telehealth sessions AND up to 10 group telehealth sessions per calendar year.
About Our Telehealth Services
Chrysalis Counselling & Coaching offers BULK BILLING as the first option for anyone seeking our support. This means you (the client) assign your Medicare rebate fully to the treating Psychologist. We submit our payment claims direct to Medicare. There is no additional out-of-pocket expense for you.
- We offer videoconferencing with Zoom (https://zoom.us/) and as a back-up VSee (www.vsee.com).
- These platforms work in the same way as Skype but offer a more stable and confidential service. VSee runs on a low bandwidth so it’s ideal for people in rural and remote communities.
- Telephone appointments can be used as a second option if you can’t get access to a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC.
- Email sessions can be booked for real-time email exchanges within a dedicated 1-hour appointment slot, or a block of 1-3 hours can be booked to be used as required. Medicare bulk billing is not available for email consultations.
- Appointments can be booked for flexible times to suit your needs – we’re not locked in to business hours.
- Before your first appointment, we will ask you to complete a short questionnaire which will be emailed to you. This helps us be sure that online services are going to be the most appropriate for you. We will also assess the types of symptoms you’re having. In some rare cases, we may advise that you make an appointment with more suitable health professional.
- Before every appointment, we will also ask you to return an email confirming that you give permission for the Psychologist to claim the bulk billing payment direct from Medicare.
- If you choose to pay the session fee yourself, the invoice will be emailed to you via PayPal and the service fee must be settled before your appointment.
Special Medicare Services for COVID-19 Patients
New Medicare item numbers are available for Psychologists to provide services to:
- people diagnosed with COVID-19 virus who are not a patient of a hospital;
- people isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner or in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC);
- people who are considered more susceptible to COVID-19, including:
- people aged over 70;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50;
- people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; and
- parents with new babies and people who are pregnant.
- people who meet the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.
All these services must now be bulk-billed. The way this must be done is described on the Services Australia page.
How secure is telehealth?
The Australian government has noted that services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others. However the following caveat should be noted:
Free versions of these applications (i.e. non-commercial versions) may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy. Practitioners must ensure that their chosen telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.
We have been using Zoom Pro as our preferred videoconference software for several years now, and recently added two additional layers of security. You will be given a password to connect to your session. This will be included in the Zoom appointment booking emailed to you. In addition, you will now be asked to stay in the Waiting Room until the Psychologist starts the session.
- Bulk billing (requires Mental Health Treatment Plan and Referral from a GP, Psychiatrist, or Pediatrician)
- Individual Services: $95.00
- Couples Services: $110.00
- Family Therapy / Coaching Services: $165 per session (3+ family members)
Common Questions about Online Mental Health Services
Can you help in an acute emergency?
- No, our service is for booked appointments only. If you’re in a crisis please call LIFELINE on 13 11 14
Is online therapy / coaching as effective as face-to-face?
- People in business have been using videoconferencing and online coaching for many years, usually very effectively. Most of us are now comfortable using online messaging and video chat services to stay in touch with friends and family. Whilst online therapy is a new way of delivering mental health support services, many people say they prefer working this way as they are less stressed being in their own personal space, not having to spend time travelling to an appointment, and once they become familiar with the technology it can be as easy as sitting opposite their therapist in an office. Best of all, their confidentiality is secure as no-one can see them going in and out!
Why are you not using Skype?
- Before considering launching our telehealth services, we put a lot of time into “due diligence”. This means we thoroughly explored the risks and benefits, and researching the advice of organisations like the Telemental Health Institute. Our aim was to be fully informed about the issues of online mental health services. We know that many counsellors offer Skype services, but this is NOT recommended by many professional organisations as it has not been compliant with some international standards regarding confidentiality. Only a few platforms offer internationally compliant security for health information (known as HIPAA compliance in the US, and for Australia the national Privacy Act). You can read more about this on their websites.
What happens if we can’t connect or the internet drops out during my session?
- This is a common problem, especially for people in remote communities where internet service is provided via satellite. It also happens during peak “traffic” periods. We use Zoom and VSee because they offer a better overall video quality and less drop-outs. Sometimes we simply have to accept that no matter what we do the session will be interrupted. If that happens we will re-schedule.
Service Delivery Terms and Conditions:
It is a condition of all our telehealth services that you agree to the following:
- If you want us to bulk bill (i.e. claim our fees direct to Medicare so you are not out of pocket), you must provide us with a completed Mental Health Treatment Plan AND Referral letter from a GP or Psychiatrist. We also require you to confirm in writing via email that you agree to us claiming the Medicare bulk bill payment for each session.
- All fee-paying telehealth services must be pre-paid via PayPal or bank transfer (proof of payment required for bank transfer). For email counselling we will advise how much time is used (and still remaining) for both reading and replying to emails.
- Sessions are not to be recorded electronically (or in any form whatsoever) unless this is discussed and agreed to with the psychologist, including signing consent for this to occur.
- To ensure absolute confidentiality, all sessions must begin with confirmation that your time spent with the psychologist will not be overheard by or involve any other person unless explicitly agreed to by both client and psychologist. Breaches of this will result in immediate termination of the session.
- In an extreme situation, such as concern for the wellbeing of our client, we will contact appropriate authorities for their assistance – this is the same condition that applies to face-to-face services with registered health practitioners.