Bupa has welcomed the federal government's decision to make telehealth a permanent part of Medicare.
The insurer said the decision represents a "significant step forward" in enhancing choice in how people receive treatment.
Telehealth was not expected to become a major feature of Australia's health system for many years. Yet its widespread use has been part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Bupa’s managing director of Health Insurance Emily Amos said the company decided in the early stages of the pandemic to fund telehealth services for popular extras services such as physiotherapy and psychology.
Since March 2020, it has funded over 21,000 consultations delivered via telephone and videoconferencing.
“Initially the decision was about making sure customers could continue to access healthcare uninterrupted during lockdown periods. However, we were the first health insurer to acknowledge that there was no turning back, telehealth was popular and it was here to stay,” said Ms Amos.
“The Federal Government’s announcement on telehealth represents a significant step forward in listening to the market and placing patient experiences at the centre of healthcare reform.”
Ms Amos continued, “Just like a mobile phone is no longer something you only make calls with, 2020 has shown us that a home can be a hub for far more than just family life. It can be an office, a classroom, a gym and significantly, a place to receive healthcare.
“Leveraging the flexibility that comes with remote healthcare is vital for attracting tech-savvy young Australians to private health insurance who have grown up using apps and smartphones for everything from ordering food to dating.”
Ms Amos said further work is required to enhance flexibility in healthcare and reduce unnecessary costs. “The only way we can help customers to claim on more flexible, personalised, home and community-based healthcare options delivered outside of expensive hospital settings is through clever reform that looks beyond the rules and practices developed last century.
“New reforms that give people more choice of where and how they receive healthcare will enable us to expand our home treatment coverage even further, keep premiums down and put the customer back in charge of their own health,” added Ms Amos.