RESIDENTS in regional and rural Australia can for the first time consult a psychiatrist from the comfort of their own home thanks for a new online service.
The Dokotela service allows people in remote areas to have consultations with psychiatrists via internet video conference.
Dokotela founder Anita Mustac said concerns such as long waiting times, high out-of-pocket costs and the fear of being seen visiting a psychiatrist was costing lives in rural Australia.
“Something needs to be done about it,” Ms Mustac said.
“So far we have had a great response from our customers.
“They appreciate the convenience, minimal waiting periods, ease-of-use as well as the security and confidentiality.”
Only 3 per cent of psychiatrists live outside the major cities and 7 in 8 people from rural Australia with a mental health condition are not receiving treatment, according to Dokotela.
Ms Mustac said that while some video conferencing with doctors was already available, Dokotela was the first Australian service focused on mental health.
Dokotela was created after Ms Mustac spoke to a friend struggling with mental health issues in rural NSW who found it difficult to access the care she needed.
Dokotela patient Kate Dowd, from Queensland, said the service had provided easy access to care when she needed help.
“I can’t believe how easy it was to get on to the system,” Ms Dowd said.
“I googled it, sent a request and they sent back a link and a time and I logged on.
“It’s the perfect solution for so many people who find it hard to access this kind of care.”
Ms Dowd said it would have taken her at least two hours’ travel to see a psychiatrist at their office.
“That’s half a day of work gone and I don’t have the time,” Ms Dowd said.
In April the Federal Government announced an initiative to subsidise psych consultations under Medicare from November this year.
People living in rural and regional areas will be able to claim up to seven of the 10 sessions currently available under Medicare rebatable mental health plans via telehealth.
This piece was first seen on the ‘The Weekly Times’ June 15 2017.