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Travelling to your healthcare appointment

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Living in a regional or remote areas can mean that access to medical treatment is more challenging, as you might need to travel long distances.
  • Planning ahead can help to reduce the cost of long distance travel.
  • Patient assisted travel schemes (PATS) are available in each state or territory to help rural and remote community members access necessary and approved medical specialist services that are not locally available.
  • Private health insurers offer travel and accommodation benefits under hospital cover, but not all health funds offer these benefits.
  • Telehealth and other technologies can help reduce the need to travel in some situations.

How can I plan ahead?

If you live in rural or remote Australia, your treatment options may be limited and getting medical treatment may mean travelling long distances. This can be complicated and costly.

If you work, go to school or have other regular commitments, let your manager or teacher know you will be away. They may need to find someone to cover you while you're away.

If you care for a child or someone else, you may need to arrange for their care while you are away. You may also need to continue this extra support after your return, while you recover.

For routine household tasks, ask a friend, neighbour or family member to help:

  • look after your pets or plants
  • collect your mail
  • pay your bills for you

Remember to take everything you need to your appointment. This includes admission forms, details of medicines or dietary supplements you are taking, test results, x-rays, scans, or medical reports.

What should I consider before I travel?

You may need to access extra support and services for your travel, stay and recovery. Before you travel, you should consider the following:

  • Am I okay to travel alone?
  • Will I need a carer or support person?
  • What forms do I need to be signed by my medical team before I go?
  • Will I need extra help on my trip home?
  • What are my access requirements? Will my travel choices and accommodation suit my needs before and after my medical treatment? This may include: The width of the hallway, room dimensions including bathroom, height of the bed and available parking.
  • Can my transport provider accommodate any equipment I need, such as a wheelchair or walking aid?

Tips from rural community members when travelling for healthcare

  • Try to organise several appointments for one trip.
  • If possible, make appointments at a time that suit your family and work needs.
  • If you're not feeling well or if there is a possibility of receiving unwelcome news, ask a friend to drive, or consider staying overnight if you need to drive yourself.
  • Take pillows to rest your arm or head in the car/plane/bus.
  • Contact a support group or person near your treating hospital or clinic.

What should I consider after I travel?

Learning as much as possible about your recovery can help you to prepare what you will need after your treatment. Ask your doctor about your recovery time and what support is available. You might be eligible for home support services, depending on your state, age and health.

Read more about care options here:

If you are living with a specific health condition or disability, you may be able to get more detailed information online or from local groups or associations. For example, the Breast Cancer Network Australia offers support in rural areas, and provides online video communication with home when travelling for treatment, through the stay in touch program.

Financial assistance for travel for healthcare

Accommodation and travel expenses can be costly. You may be eligible for help to ease this financial burden.

Patient Assisted Travel Schemes (PATS)

All states and territories have Patient Assisted Travel Schemes (PATS) to help eligible patients in rural and remote Australia with the costs of travel These can help you access specialist medical services not available locally.

Rules and amounts vary, but all PATS schemes help cover:

  • travel expenses for public transport
  • accommodation costs at your destination
  • travel expenses and accommodation costs of your eligible support person or carer

Some schemes also cover some costs of:

  • ground transport costs at your destination (for example, taxis)
  • living away from home
  • accommodation
  • costs for trips by private car
  • extra journeys for your support person or carer, if your stay is long
  • subsidies for private accommodation

Read about PATS support in your state or territory:

Private health insurance

Private health insurers now offer travel and accommodation benefits under hospital cover. These private health insurance benefits generally cover:

  • petrol costs for travel by car
  • train, bus or air fares
  • accommodation costs near the place of treatment for the patient and a carer

Not all health funds offer these benefits. If you have a health fund, check your policy to see what is included. Be aware that cover varies between health funds and policies.

Other support services

The following organisations may offer help with travel for healthcare:

These organisations provide help with accommodation:

Read more here about rural and remote health services and support.

What options do I have if I prefer not to travel?

You might be able to avoid travelling for medical treatment or care, thanks to technology and advances in healthcare delivery.

Telehealth services

Telehealth services use video conferencing technology. This means you can talk with a healthcare professional via your computer, tablet or phone and see their image on the screen.

Your doctor might ask your permission to record video, audio or other health information. They can then forward it securely to other medical specialists, who can review it and provide an opinion. Telehealth services can also be used to remotely monitor patients, if required.

Telehealth services save travel time and costs. They can be a less stressful option than travelling a long distance for healthcare. Medicare benefits are often available — check with your health team if they offer telehealth, and if it is right in your situation.

Video Call, developed by Healthdirect Australia, allows healthcare providers to have video consultations, using your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. This private and secure service connects you with your healthcare professional from a location convenient to you, such as your home or work.

Telehealth services can also be a convenient way for carers or translators or interpreters to be involved in healthcare conversations.

If your doctor or medical centre doesn't offer telehealth consultations, you can use the healthdirect service finder to find a provider.

Depending on your needs, ask your healthcare team if you can:

  • reduce the number of appointments that require travel
  • use your local health service more, instead of travelling for treatment
  • access any outreach services in your area

Resources and Support

See healthdirect's online Question Builder for help putting together a list of questions for your health team. If you have a long or difficult journey to reach your doctor, it is especially important to be well prepared, so you can make the most of your visit.

Read more about healthcare options and Australia's healthcare system.

Look for specific rural and remote health services for your state or territory:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

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