Even doctors have healthcare needs. I’m a nurse practitioner but I still need ad hoc referrals to specialists, and doctor’s appointments for my family, and the occasional medical certificate. I (and my colleagues) understand the challenges our patients face daily; the juggle of work and home life responsibilities, and the difficulty making time for healthcare. Often, your preferred doctor’s practice does not have any open appointments that fit neatly into your work-life schedule which means it’s another ‘thing’ we all have to massage into our already busy weeks.
Telehealth services, such as Hola Health for whom I practice, provide the public with quality and affordable healthcare when a patient is not able to obtain an appointment with their usual healthcare provider, or it’s one-off need that does not require oversight by your regular doctor. Healthcare platforms that provide telehealth exclusively are a convenient supplemental service to your preferred local doctor.
Accessible healthcare means different things to different people.
Elderly patients, those with physical disabilities, young people, and those in regional will often face difficulties arranging transportation to a medical appointment. Costs association with transport are another barrier to accessing appropriate and timely healthcare. Telehealth appointments remove the worry, and cost, of finding transportation to and from a medical appointment.
Fewer and fewer GP practices are able to provide 100% Bulk Billed consultations. As of 2023, the average gap fee for a GP consultation in Australia is $42.44. A traditional medical practice requires patients to book a standard consultation for a medical certificate, referral, or a repeat prescription. Online telehealth services like Hola Health provide heavily reduced rates for services that don’t require the full length of an in-person consultation.
At an average of $7.22 cheaper than the average gap fee, these 8 minute consultations and a cost effective choice for multi-day medical certificates, multiple prescriptions, and specialist and pathology referrals.
The Australian Medical Association’s guideline’s for medical certificates advise that a medical certificate may be issued ‘based on a medical condition observed by the doctor or reported by the patient and accepted by the doctor.’ Because of this, a face to face appointment (and the associated cost) is often unnecessary. Hola Health, for example, provides a telehealth medical certificates whereby a patient fills in an online form requesting a certificate and reporting their symptoms. An Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) registered doctor or Nurse Practitioner reviews the written request rather (rather than a in person one). This reduces time for the appointment, and thus the cost.
Similar to the telehealth medical certificate process, Hola Health telehealth prescriptions also use a form to minimise the face-to-face time required to discuss the details of the request, and in turn the cost to the patient. Use the form to request your medication and a doctor or nurse practitioner will see you for a short telehealth video consult within 15 minutes of the request.
Telehealth providers often provide out of hours services. Hola Health, in particular, provides 24 hour, 7 day a week telehealth services. Additionally, their service is provided ‘on demand’ which means that you’ll speak with a nurse practitioner or doctor, or have a medical certificate request reviewed within 15 minutes any time of the day or night. Extended opening hours makes healthcare far more accessible to those who also undertake their work or caring responsibilities within business hours.
With the busy lives we all lead it can be difficult to find the time to fit in with the availability of your home GP. What’s more, often we need access to care after hours. Telehealth services that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week provide an option in those circumstances. Being able to consult a doctor not just when you need it but taking the consult without having to leave the house delivers a great level of convenience for patients.
Telehealth is useful in bridging the gap with accessible healthcare. Online appointments allow patients to obtain medical care from the comfort of their own home. Telehealth appointments can also reduce the challenges that many patients have related to travel as many patients will often depend on public transportation to take them to and from the health care appointments.
It’s common for patients to find themselves in need of a repeat prescription for their usual prescribed medication, and unable to get into their regular doctor to have it issued before running out. Abruptly stopping a medication can place a patient’s health and safety at risk resulting in adverse events, such as
Online telehealth services like Hola Health not only allow you to avoid the need to find time for an in-person appointment, but their service is ‘on demand’ which means you can make a prescription request via their online form and a doctor (like me) or a nurse practitioner will review your request and have a video consultation with you within 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
As I metioned earlier, single day medical certificates need not cost the same amount as a consult when patient’s are self-reporting symptoms that make them unfit for work or study at university. This makes single day medical certificates ideal for telehealth.
Telehealth can expedite the referral process because patients can receive consultations with a GP more quickly than waiting for a local primary healthcare appointment – especially for conditions that require a referral sooner rather than later.
We all have ‘those’ times when we’re pretty sure our symptoms (or our kids, partner’s etc) aren’t extreme enough to go to a hospital waiting room but we can’t get into a GP today and we’d really like to know we’re making the right choice. Telehealth allows patients to seek reassurance from a GP from the comfort of their own home (24 hours a day with Hola Health). When a primary healthcare provider can advise us that we’re likely fine to rest up at home it can relieve anxiety, especially if the symptoms have emerged outside of business hours.
Communication between patients and healthcare providers is a vital part of healthcare today. According to the National Institutes of Health (Vermeir et al., 2015), when providing healthcare, face-to-face communication between the patient and the healthcare provider is vital to get the full conversation. By observing body language and facial expressions during the face-to-face encounter, this allows both parties to not only hear what is being said, but have a better understanding of what is being said. While telephone consultations have their place, telehealth appointments allow for this face-to-face communication with the patient online rather than in-person.
The “human factor” is a vital part of telehealth medicine and is crucial to providing patients with quality and affordable health care. During telehealth appointments, although the patient is not physically in the room with the patient, this online encounter provides a face-to-face encounter with the patient, always recognizing the “human factor” as a vital component to this interaction. As health care providers, our goal is to provide comfort to our patients, to make them feel better, to listen to the patient, and to provide feedback.
Although Telehealth is an important part of health care today, it was never intended to replace in-person appointments with a patient’s health care professional. Routine in-person health care appointments are important in helping a patient maintain their good health and well-being.
This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.