Dr Chris Gill, Dr Bill Smith and Dr Jane De Keyser at Affinity Family Medical.
Dr Chris Gill, Dr Bill Smith and Dr Jane De Keyser at Affinity Family Medical.

Changes to GP visits for the ‘unknowable’ future

HEALTH check-ups, prescription renewals and general medical appointments can now be conducted from the comfort of your own living room as doctors in the region make the switch to online appointments.

In a move to keep patients out of waiting rooms and doctors safe, Affinity Family Medical in Cannonvale will conduct most of their appointments virtually, either over the phone or through a secure video link.

This comes as the Australian Government announced yesterday it was expanding Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians.

Dr Bill Smith, who practises at Affinity Family Medical, said the focus on virtual appointments would take a bit of adjusting but was worth it to ensure the safety of the community and doctors.

“It’s making us all contribute to social distancing and by doing this we are letting people stay at home, which is essential,” he said.

“The only time a patient needs to see a doctor is when they need to be physically examined.

“If we determine an examination is necessary we will see them face-to-face, so teleconferencing in that context can be used as a triage method.”

As part of the changes, Affinity Family Medical will also bulk bill patients into what Dr Smith said would be the “unknowable” future.

“For the duration of the pandemic, Affinity has decided to bulk bill everyone as a gesture of goodwill to everyone who’s struggling,” he said.

“Everyone will have to carry their burden in these unusual times.”

The Federal Government also announced yesterday it would double the bulk-billing incentive for GPs both for face-to-face and telehealth services during the course of the COVID-19 response.

An incentive payment will also be established to ensure practices stay open to provide face-to-face services where they are essential for patients with conditions that can’t be treated through telehealth.

In the meantime, Dr Smith said it was important people stayed up-to-date with the latest health information from the Department of Health.

“With two local confirmed cases that makes this real, it’s no longer a global hypothetical,” he said.

“It’s probable there are undiagnosed cases walking among us.

“Everyone needs to take these precautions seriously.”


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