New platform addresses lack of mental health services in rural areas

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday September 13, 2019

An online platform that allows people to video conference psychologists through their smartphone has launched in Queensland.

The Rural Health Connect service will eventually be implemented across rural Australia.

The encrypted site allows individuals to search, book, and pay for appointments to video conference with trusted psychologists. Sessions can also be claimed through Medicare.

The platform was created at the Rockhampton Regional Council’s SmartHub — a co-working space for startups, entrepreneurs and small business owners. It was established by the council in 2016 to improve outcomes for the community.

Rural Health Connect Director Megan Gomez said the site aimed to address the lack of accessible mental health services in rural Australia.

“Once you get outside of major towns or cities it can be very hard to access a psychologist. Attending an appointment often means a long drive into town and that means time away from work or the kids,” she said.

“This way there is no travel time, no wait time and users can do the session at a time that suits them.

“We have put a lot of effort into ensuring the site is user friendly for GPs who refer to us, psychologists and to the people who use it.”

Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow said she was proud of SmartHub’s potential to foster innovation and find solutions.

“Council’s SmartHub is designed to offer solutions to the barriers people face in regional areas when launching innovative ideas like this one,” she said.

Rockhampton psychologist Mandy Dexter argued the platform would benefit psychologists as well as patients.

“We can offer more regular appointments and it gives us scope to be more flexible with our time and work remotely and not necessarily need to be tied to an office. For me it will be a nice mix to offer services to both face-to-face and telehealth clients,” she said.

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