Week Six of Telehealth consultations. This is an update for the future to look back on and reflect on these unusual times.
Thursday 7th May, 2020 had some highs and lows.
After 6 weeks of waiting we received our Job Keeper payments. This is a giant high for Bob and myself after weeks of stress and anxiety- farout what a relief! If anyone hasn’t received their Jobkeeper payment and they have applied for it, please be aware it is quite complex to fill out all the forms and you may have missed a step if you haven’t received a payment by now.
The joy was somewhat tempered by the fact that on that same day, I also had a one hour conversation with a representative from HCF – one of the Private Health Insurance (PHI) companies – regarding their requirement that they had a new form for us to fill out if their patients were to receive a rebate on their Telehealth physiotherapy appointments.
This was the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back.
There’s been so many curve balls and hoops to jump through EVERY DAY since COVID19 imploded all around the world. In the beginning I could have easily curled up under the dining room table with my blankey and given up. It all seemed a bit overwhelming.
But gradually each day, with a lot of lists and extremely able staff and husband (who has in fact become an IT guru), we have managed to claw our way back up to peek out from the quick sand and see a future as a practice again. We have classes streaming each day, we are turning peoples’ lives around with Telehealth and even seeing the occasional patient again face-to-face.
We had started to breathe.
And then we get an email from HCF with the news that we have to fill in yet another form if our HCF patients are to be given a rebate from their private health insurance (PHI) – their very expensive health insurance, even though the services anyone can access and receive a rebate from their PHI have been almost non-existent since COVID19 started. Not just give them a Tax Invoice with a special Telehealth code like every other health fund required. No, a two page form had to be filled in by each physio who treated the patients.
I decided when I read this email that I was going to ask HCF to explain to me why all Allied Health Practitioners had this extra burdon placed upon them when no other health fund was doing it. Firstly the number the email gave to ring on just rang and rang and rang- no robot even picked up. After 2 calls totalling 45 minutes each went by with absolutely zilch pick-up, I decided to do what usually gets a swift response from the other major offenders in the category of “Ridiculously Impossible To Get Through To”- Optus and Telstra – I decided to send a Tweet.
Two days later and HCF tweeted back and asked for my phone number.
To cut a long story short – on Thursday 7th May, Kieran from HCF rang me and politely listened to me for about an hour, as I educated him on the complexities of Telehealthing my patients with pelvic health conditions – to say his straight hair may have been curly when I’d finished is an understatement. And I told Kieran that myself and my physios were often physically and emotionally exhausted after an initial consulation with a complex patient and the very last thing any of us need to do or should be required to do is fill in another form.
The patients currently get a detailed Tax Invoice with an Item number, and the cost, their name and address, the physios name and provider number – an extremely detailed invoice. Our patients also get a 14 page set of notes, a specipan for their bladder diary, a copy of one of my books, a specific homework page tailored to their specific problems and then get sent links to videos which I have done to explain the things that they would normally see if they were physically in the room. We are trying very hard to make this Telehealth experience worthwhile and as good almost as being face-to-face. My reaction to this requirement from HCF is they don’t trust us Allied Health Professionals.
It’s funny after all the things that have been testing us all in these strange times, why some things really get your goat.
The internet has been atrocious at times, the mobile phone reception has gone caput, our income has dropped by 60%, the amount of actual change that has had to be enacted to make this all be effective in about 10 seconds flat has been massive…..and yet the meanness of this Health Fund towards the hard working Allied Health Providers who are literally (almost) killing themselves to help HCF clients, beggers belief.
If I were a HCF customer I would ring them to ask them why are you doing this to our caring Allied Health Professionals?
(It would be probs be impossible to get through to anyone though.)