The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has applauded the expansion of Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians. However, the peak body for communications consumers cautioned that the full benefits of telehealth may not be realised if Australians are not online.

“While it is pleasing that the Government has listened to the medical community and made bulk-billed telehealth services available for all Australians, the underlying issue of connectivity remains,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

“There are 2.5 million Australian households who aren’t online, many because of affordability issues. This means that they’re not able to access telehealth services that rely on an internet connection, such as video conferencing with GP services, mental health treatment, or any number of health care providers.”

The Government’s announcement of additional funding for the headspace digital work and study service will be limited by similar barriers.

“Young people do need to be offered technical and life skills through important programs such as headspace, but these digital support services are not practical if they can afford home internet access.”

“The problem of affordable broadband, especially for those most vulnerable in our communities during this time, must be resolved. We want the Government to fast track a concessional home broadband product to provide cheaper internet to those most in need.”