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What you can and can’t use telehealth for

When can you use telehealth, and when do you need to visit a clinic? 

Mother holding a baby, consulting with doctor over a telehealth video call on digital tablet.
Mother holding a baby, consulting with doctor over a telehealth video call on digital tablet.

More and more people are continuing to use telehealth services as an alternative and more convenient method of care. But does this mean that you can ditch face-to-face consultations altogether and never have to leave the comfort of your couch again? 

The short answer is (unfortunately), no. 

Generally, if a physical examination isn’t required then the appointment could be conducted by telehealth, opens in a new tab, but that doesn’t mean it will always be the best option. Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor might advise that an in-person consultation is best.  

So when can you use telehealth, and when do you need to visit a clinic? 

Using telehealth services 

Telehealth services are virtual consultations, often conducted over the phone, that allow you to speak with a medical professional about a range of healthcare concerns like diagnosis, treatment and prevention without having to physically visit a clinic. 

There’s a long list of services available via telehealth – psychology appointments, referrals, monitoring blood sugar levels, discussing test results, health management program delivery, opens in a new tab, prenatal classes, opens in a new tab and more. 

But what you can access depends on your healthcare provider and whether they offer telehealth and feel it’s appropriate for you. 

Related: Use nib’s find a provider tool to search for practitioners who offer telehealth, opens in a new tab

Why can’t telehealth be used for all appointments? 

Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to find a parking spot or sit in a doctor’s waiting room again? If all your healthcare needs could be met over the phone? 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While telehealth has been great for expanding access to healthcare and ensuring continuity of care, it’s not suitable for everyone, or every situation. 

Healthcare that requires a practitioner to move or touch your body requires a face-to-face appointment – things like remedial massage, skin checks or checking lumps. Sometimes telehealth isn’t appropriate if your doctor is delivering serious or emotional news and feels a face-to-face discussion would be best. 

It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare professional before the appointment to make sure you’re all set up and familiar with the program they recommend. 

Related: What to expect from your first telehealth appointment, opens in a new tab

Costs and claiming telehealth appointments 

Before you book your telehealth appointment, it’s important to check whether your private health insurance policy will cover the cost of your telehealth appointment, and whether or not you’re eligible for a Medicare benefit, opens in a new tab

Australian residents: Can I use my nib private health insurance benefits to claim on telehealth appointments? 

nib members who carry a level of Extras cover which pays benefits for psychology, physiotherapy, dietetics, speech pathology, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and podiatry, and hospital cover for rehabilitation care, can use their cover to claim on appropriate treatment via telehealth appointments1

For more information and a list of FAQs, head to our page telehealth and your cover, opens in a new tab.

Australian residents: Can I use my nib private health insurance benefits to claim for GP appointments?

Unfortunately you cannot claim for GP telehealth appointments. However, nib members (including GreenPass, opens in a new tab) can use exclusive pricing and capped fees for your next GP telehealth appointment, opens in a new tab. Whether you need a medical certificate, prescription, pathology or radiology request or just general health advice, you can see a GP at a time that suits you – all you need is your phone. Learn more about exclusive pricing and capped GP telehealth booking fees, opens in a new tab for Australian resident nib members.

International students: Can I use my nib cover to claim telehealth appointments?

If you’re an international student, you can access telehealth using the nib App, opens in a new tab and it will be billed to nib directly2. So, whether you need a medical certificate, a prescription, or even just a consult, you have everything you need to make an appointment with your GP in the palm of your hand.

International workers: Can I use my nib cover to claim telehealth appointments?

We want international workers to stay as healthy as possible, so for health services that you’re covered for as part of your policy, you’ll also be able to claim benefits on telehealth appointments2. Telehealth consultations are offered only when it is clinically appropriate, so not all providers will make it available to all patients. We recommend giving your health professional a call to check before making an appointment. For more information, check out our page, telehealth and your cover, opens in a new tab.

At nib we provide a range of other telehealth services (other than GP consultations) to make it easier for our members to manage their health online:

1Services include psychology, physiotherapy, dietetics, speech pathology, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and podiatry, and hospital cover for rehabilitation care. This is subject to your chosen level of cover, policy exclusions, waiting periods and limits. Only individual telehealth consultations are covered, groups and classes are currently not funded for telehealth. 

2nib will cover appropriate treatment using telehealth for eligible members with recognised providers. This is subject to your chosen level of cover, availability at your chosen clinic, policy exclusions, waiting periods and limits. May not be appropriate for all consultations. Only individual telehealth consultations are covered, groups and classes are currently not funded for telehealth. nib Fund Rules and Policy Booklet Terms apply.

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