RURAL doctors have lauded an extension to vital telehealth services set to be cut off at the end of the month.
The federal government has announced Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations brought in to combat the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue until March 31 next year.
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said telehealth services have always been essential for patients in regional and rural areas whether or not there's a pandemic.
"It's really important people have the capacity to get to a doctor," he said.
"I had to use it myself for the boys and it makes so much more sense than to go to an area where you're more likely to get sick or make other people sick.
"People should have access to medical care no matter where they live without driving hundreds of kilometres."
National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) chief executive Gabrielle O'Kane said telehealth has been an important lifeline for people in rural, regional and remote Australia during the pandemic.
"It can be difficult enough to access healthcare in some areas at the best of times, but especially once you add in the difficulties caused by the pandemic including border restrictions," she said.
There are concerns from the NRHA about connectivity issues in rural and regional areas, which Mr Joyce believes are being addressed by the mobile blackspot program and installation of the NBN.
Dr O'Kane said if telehealth is here to stay those issues needed to be looked after.
"Connectivity remains a big issue in rural Australia, and we need to be improving internet infrastructure in the bush otherwise telehealth is difficult or impossible for patients and health practitioners to use," said Dr O'Kane.
The extension was announced on Friday.