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COVID patients exempt from 12-month telehealth rule


Jolyon Attwooll


18/10/2022 4:41:56 PM

People with COVID-19 can keep having telehealth consults with any GP, regardless of when their last appointment was.

Woman with positive COVID-19 test
COVID-19 patients will continue to be able to consult any GP via telehealth until at least 2023.

The Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH) has announced that patients with COVID-19 are to remain exempt from the existing clinical relationship requirement for telehealth until the end of the year.
 
The rule is being backdated to 13 October, when the state isolation requirements ended, and is in place until 31 December 2022.
 
It means that any patient with a positive COVID-19 test confirmed either by PCR test or a TGA-approved rapid antigen test in the past seven days will be able to access MBS-subsidised telehealth care from any GP, regardless of whether they have attended the clinic in the past year.
 
Under the standard existing relationship rule (also referred to as the one in 12 rule), patients are required to have had a face-to-face appointment with their GP or practice in the past 12 months to be eligible for a Medicare telehealth rebate.
 
Those required to isolate due to COVID-19 were exempt from that rule until the mandated isolation requirement around the country ended last week.
 
In a COVID-19 primary care update email on Monday, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd acknowledged GPs’ concerns about telehealth consultations and the existing relationship requirement after the change to public health orders, and promised a further update.
 
Level C telehealth consultations to assess patients for COVID-19 oral antiviral eligibility also remain exempt from the rule.
 
As well as the temporary exemption for COVID-19 patients, the established relationship requirement does not apply to any of the groups below:

  • Children under the age of 12 months
  • People who are homeless
  • Patients receiving an urgent after-hours (unsociable hours) service
  • Patients of medical practitioners at an Aboriginal Medical Service or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service
  • People isolating because of a COVID-related state or territory public health order, or in COVID-19 quarantine because of a state or territory public health order
  • People living in a flood-affected area, defined as a state or territory local government area which is currently declared as a natural disaster area due to flood by a state or territory government
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