Telepsychiatry – guide for the public
Telepsychiatry is a consultation conducted by video or via a computer between you and your psychiatrist at a distant location. The consultation may occur at home, at a general practitioner's (GP's) practice or in a hospital.
Looking for a psychiatrist who offers telepsychiatry?
The RANZCP’s Find a Psychiatrist page lists Australian psychiatrists with a private practice who offer telepsychiatry. To use the search, enter a location, then click on Advanced Search, then under Practice Details, select Offers Telepsychiatry.
How does a telepsychiatry consultation work?
The psychiatrist will speak with you and ask you questions in the same way they would at a face-to-face consultation.
What are the benefits of using telepsychiatry?
Telepsychiatry improves your access to a psychiatrist and will reduce travel time and costs. It also means that you do not have to be away from work for long periods of time.
Everyone is eligible; however, Medicare claims are only possible if you:
- live outside a major city and are more than 15 km from the psychiatrist
- are not currently in hospital.
People living in residential aged care facilities or receiving Aboriginal medical services anywhere in Australia are not affected by these restrictions.
Visit the Doctor Connect website to find out if you are in an area that's eligible for Medicare claims for telepsychiatry (Remoteness Areas 2–5 are eligible; Remoteness Area 1 corresponds to major cities and is not eligible).
What preparation is required for a video consultation?
If you would like a family member or your carer present, let them know. If you are having a consultation with your psychiatrist and GP, arrive at the GP’s practice at least 15 minutes early to allow for preparation time.
Is using telepsychiatry compulsory?
No. If preferred, a face-to-face consultation can be organised and it will require you to travel. There may, however, be a longer waiting time to see a psychiatrist.
A video consultation will only be offered if the psychiatrist and GP consider it safe and suitable.
What if the appointment is cancelled?
Video consultations require significant coordination by the psychiatrist and/or GP, so it is important to keep the video consultation appointment.
If you need to cancel, please let the psychiatrist/GP know immediately, because rescheduling video consultations is more complicated than rescheduling face-to-face appointments.
What can I expect?
You can expect to receive the equivalent standard of care that you would expect in a face-to-face consultation.
You can have an interpreter, health worker or a multicultural worker present if you wish. (However, please note that a Medicare claim cannot be made to cover this cost.)
If, during a telepsychiatry consultation, you decide you do not want to proceed with the consultation, you can request that the session be discontinued and a face-to-face consultation organised instead.
What about privacy and confidentiality?
The GP will ask you to give your permission to share information with the psychiatrist.
The same privacy and confidentiality requirements that apply to face-to-face consultations apply to video consultations. The psychiatrist will not provide information to anyone other than those involved in your care.
If you are attending a video consultation from home, your psychiatrist will explain to you the IT format being used for the consultation and any potential privacy security risks.
Your consultation will not be recorded. However, if your psychiatrist thinks it would be helpful for your treatment to record your video consultation, he or she will first seek your written permission. The psychiatrist will also ask you to repeat your consent on camera at the beginning of the consultation.
What are the limitations of video consultations?
The service may unexpectedly drop out and another person may be called to reconnect the session.
If you have any questions about whether a video consultation may be suitable for you, please talk to your psychiatrist and/or your GP.
Information for psychiatrists and other clinicians can be found on the Telehealth in psychiatry page.
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