26 September 2023

Telehealth busy as faces face off

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More than 4.3 million health and medical services have been delivered online to three million patients via telehealth consultations made possible by the Department of Health for the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, this alternative to face-to-face visits is saving lives by helping to stop the spread of the virus, protecting patients and health professionals.

Mr Hunt said the number of telehealth consultations had expanded rapidly to more than 700,000 in the past week.

“The significant fall in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases is a testament to the rapid action by Australian governments and the willingness of all Australians to do their bit to contain the virus,” Mr Hunt, said.

He said regular billing practices would apply to services provided via telehealth with a total of 274 new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items created and implemented in six weeks to allow the technology to be broadly adopted.

He said an additional 28 telehealth items for specialists and allied health professionals were to be added to the MBS this week.

The health profession has worked in partnership with the Department to urgently develop the telehealth items.

“This is an extraordinary feat and a reflection of our doctors’ and allied health professionals’ commitment to delivering accessible, best-practice care for all patients during this difficult time,” Mr Hunt said.

He said GP clinics remained open to allow patients to attend for face-to-face visits and assistance where telehealth consultations were not appropriate.

He said general practices could keep their doors open following the doubling of the bulk-billing incentive and Practice Incentive Payment.

Patients with concession cards, children under 16 and vulnerable patients will continue to be bulk billed for GP services provided via the new telehealth items, the Ministers said. Regular billing practices are permitted for all other services.

“It is imperative Australians continue to receive the high quality medical care and advice they expect and deserve from their health care providers,” Mr Hunt said.

He said the telehealth policies would continue to be reviewed and refined throughout this period.

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