In an effort to encourage telehealth services, Australian doctors and specialists who see patients via video conferencing could be offered tax rebates, reports the Australian.
The AU$392.3 million investment will be implemented next July and is expected to help Australians in remote locations across the country gain access to the same quality healthcare those in the city receive. Video conferencing software makes it possible for even the remotest patients to see their doctors face-to-face on a regular basis without spending the money and time to drive hundreds of miles.
To spur the development of video conferencing telehealth infrastructure, Australian doctors will be paid three times their current taxpayer rebate to see patients via video conference. Doctors who now make $34 for a 20-minute consultation could make as much as $100 for performing the same consultation using video conferencing technology.
Beginning in mid-2012, patients will also have access to a 24-hour virtual emergency room, where nurses and physicians will be on duty to address concerns through video conferencing, according to the paper.
Telehealth is becoming increasingly popular in Australia. According to Contemporary Nurse, citing statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, remote Aussies tend to have higher blood pressure and higher rates of tobacco and alcohol consumption than their urban counterparts. Access to health services through video conferencing is especially important for these citizens, many of whom live hundreds of miles from major health centers.