Grinding America Down
Our numbers on the blog are holding up pretty close to normal levels during the break

Stephen Conroy told me that the NBN's major benefit, the biggie, the Grand Prize, Division One - was telemedicine

Telemedicine, the big killer application.

Could someone do me a favour?   I interviewed Stephen Conroy many times and he told me that high definition videoconferencing (with such resolution as to permit the examination, indeed the counting and colour classification of nasal hair) was the big kahuna of NBN apps, it was the singular reason to rip up the bad old horrible "internet" and whack in the $50KEV new NBN.   If you know where that interview is could you send me the link?  

Poor old Stephen will have an episode of dyspepsia when he sees this.   What are we gonna use the NBN for now?   There's only so many times you can download that Gangnam bloke dancing around.

Millions across Australia to lose Telehealth rebates from New Year

THE cost of specialist healthcare will soar for millions of Australians from Tuesday under cost-cutting changes to the Federal Government's beleaguered Telehealth scheme.

And doctors will have to mothball millions of dollars worth of new computer equipment as another fallout of the troubled Telehealth scheme.

From January 1, more than eight million people in outer urban and semi-regional areas will be stripped of their Medicare rebate for internet video consultations with medical specialists, as their suburbs and towns are reclassified as "major cities".

In South Australia, the original eligible service area took in more than 1.1 million residents in suburbs and towns north and northwest of Modbury Heights, east of Magill and south of Port Noarlunga.

The redefined boundaries have slashed the number of eligible residents to just over 421,000, with patients in those areas now classified as living in a "major city".

Patients as far south as Willunga, Aldinga, Sellicks Beach and McLaren Vale and as far north as Gawler will now have to travel to the city for specialist consultations, something the Australian Medical Association federal president Dr Steve Hambleton says is a problem for those with mobility issues or without personal transport.

Quietly announced in October, the geographical changes will save the Government $128.5 million on the $620 million scheme, which was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's 2010 election campaign launch.

Dr Hambleton said he had received many complaints from doctors upset their patients may be put at risk.

"I've had doctors call me to say they've had patients set up to do Telehealth with psychiatrists, for example, who bulk bill who now simply won't get access to those services," he said.

"We do need to focus these rebates where they're most needed but some people in outer urban areas were getting very beneficial access to services, particularly psychiatrists, who now just won't be."

Since July last year patients have been able to claim the cost of internet video consultations with specialists back from Medicare as long as they are conducted at a clinic within the eligible service area, and the specialist is at least 15km away.

Dr Hambleton said patients in reclassified areas would still get a rebate for Telehealth if they accessed it from rural clinics, even if consulting the same specialist.

Meanwhile, GPs in reclassified areas who have received rebates of up to $6000 to install Telehealth-equipped computers in clinics now say the equipment is virtually useless.