Covid-19 & Telehealth

“Telehealth” Sessions
Prior to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, only clients living in rural & remote regions were able to access telephone or televideo sessions. However, as of 30 March 2020 Medicare agreed to pay rebates for all Australians (with a valid Doctor’s Referral and Mental Health Care Plan – see my Fees & Referrals page) who consult with their psychologists via telephone or via televideo link. Medicare have called these sessions “Telehealth” sessions and have said that they are a temporary measure in the face of Covid-19, in place until 30 September 2020. Medicare have given Australian psychologists the discretion to determine whether they wish to continue to see clients face-to-face or whether they will consult with clients remotely via Telehealth.

Cost of Telehealth Sessions
A couple of weeks after Telehealth sessions were first introduced, as of Monday 20 April Medicare have said that psychologists can charge their regular fees for all clients for Telehealth sessions (which includes an out-of-pocket amount to the client, over and above the Medicare bulk-bill rate) – please see my “Fees & Referrals” page for my usual rates.

Although I am keeping my rates the same as they were prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, I do not want any of my clients to be prevented from continuing to have sessions with me purely because they cannot afford my fee (co-payment above the bulk-bill rate) because of the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. For my current clients – if you are struggling financially but still wish to see me for counselling, please speak to me about your finances before or during your next session with me; for new clients, please make sure to discuss this with me when we set up your initial appointment. As I have always done, I will do my best to accommodate clients who want to continue psychotherapy with me, but for whom finances would otherwise prevent them from attending.

Telehealth vs. face-to-face Sessions
In accordance with the Health Department & Government’s general recommendations due to Covid-19, I am trying to reduce my face-to-face sessions with clients as much as possible.
However, I do realize that for certain clients, tele/video sessions can be difficult or problematic; therefore, within the guidelines below I am still open to considering face-to-face sessions with clients.
a) If I were to develop any cold or flu-like symptoms even if only mild eg. “the sniffles” I would not see you face-to-face but only over tele/video.
b) If you as my client had any cold or flu-like symptoms (not just Covid-19 symptoms) I would not see you face-to-face. Even if you were to come to the office for an appointment and you only had eg. “the sniffles” or a mild cough I would still need to turn you away – not only because of the risk of transmission to myself but even more so because of the risk to the staff and  clients (who are mostly older & more vulnerable to Covid-19) of the Hearing & Audiology Clinic where I have my premises.
c) If your living or working circumstances have the potential for your higher exposure to the coronavirus (eg. family member who has had Covid-19; eg. frontline healthcare workers) we will need to have Telehealth sessions rather than meet face-to-face.
d) Any of my clients who meet the government’s criteria for being at higher risk of serious illness, or death, from Covid-19 (due to eg. age or chronic health conditions) I would ask you to seriously reconsider if you wanted to have face-to-face sessions with me.

If none of a)-c) above apply, and if in spite of d) above, you still wish to see me face-to-face, at this stage I am willing to consider that as an option, but please contact me first so we can discuss this in greater detail.

Information about my Video-Consulting system:
I have an extremely secure (it meets all Australian & international standards of privacy & security) and very easy-to-use televideo system that has recently been designed specifically for psychological Telehealth sessions. This system will work on your laptop, PC, iPad, tablet or smart phone.
My video-conferencing system does not require you to download any software, and it does not go through any third party software (eg. Whatsapp/ Skype/ Zoom) – it is a direct connection between your device and my device.
Data Usage:
If you are using your device via wifi, the data will go through the wifi’s allowance.
If you are using your smart phone (3/4 G) WITHOUT wifi, then our televideo session will use some of your phone’s data allowance but not much – this software has a relatively low data usage profile.
How it works:
Each of my clients will be assigned a unique link (URL) – it is like your  individual “key” to the “room” of our sessions. It is the same key for each session – you do not need a new key each time. Once you have notified me what device you wish to have the Telehealth session on, I will send you either an email or an sms containing your link (“key”). Click on the link and depending on your device you should soon see my name & logo up at the top left of the screen. Click on the blue rectangular button that says “Start Telehealth Session”, and voila! – that should be it. You will see me, I will see you, and we will be ready to go.
Not yet for more than 2 people:
Because this software has only just been developed, at this stage it is unable to cater for couples counselling unless the two of you sit close together & can both be pictured on the one camera (this might well work if you have a wide angle lens webcam, though this is not usually the case for standard laptops or phone cameras). However I am hoping that this feature will be available by May 2020.
An Important Recommendation for Telehealth Sessions:
Part of what enhances the benefits of counselling is the “safe space” provided by the psychologist and the separateness and quiet confidentiality of the therapeutic room. I would therefore strongly advise all of my clients to make sure that for your 50 mins of Telehealth counselling (& 10 mins of admin) with me, that you will be in a space that is as free as possible from external interruptions. It would be best to notify your family members that you will be unavailable for the hour of your session. If you have young children who might require (or demand!) your attention during a session, it would be ideal if you were able to ensure that another adult is available to look after them.