Connecting rural residents and health services

New online platform links potential patients with psychologists


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Megan Gomez, director of Rural Health Connect

Megan Gomez, director of Rural Health Connect

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Rural Health Connect allows people to chat with professionals from anywhere via video conferencing.

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THE tyranny of distance standing between rural residents and mental health services is shrinking, courtesy of an online platform.

Rural Health Connect allows people to chat with professionals from anywhere via video conferencing and its site manages bookings, reminders, payments and links with Medicare.

Some of Central Queensland's most respected psychologists are supporting the site and available for appointments.

Director Megan Gomez said the site aimed to address the urgent need for better access to mental health services in rural areas.

"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," Ms Gomez said.

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

The platform is encrypted and security approved.

"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," Ms Gomez said.

Rockhampton psychologist Mandy Dexter said she was excited to use technology to support people previously lacking access to relevant health services.

"Travel can be a huge barrier to many rural and remote people accessing help with individuals or families needing to travel significant distances to access a one-hour session. Additionally, if someone is in crises it allows us to respond quickly," she said.

"There is always going to be a place for in-person services but there are instances where it makes sense to take advantage of technology."

Rockhampton Regional Council Mayor Margaret Strelow said Rural Health Connect had the potential to positively impact the lives of many people.

Alton Downs mum Louise Brown said a service such as RHC would have been a godsend as she battled post-natal depression following the birth of her third child, now nine.

With her husband working away from home and and three children under four years a trip to town for help seemed impossible, she said.

"It would have meant getting myself off the couch, having a shower and putting on make-up and at that time of my life that seemed like running a marathon," Ms Brown said.

"Talking to someone online would have meant I could have had my kids with me and it would not have been daunting, so I would have jumped at the chance and started feeling better much earlier."

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