Full clarity on telehealth extension not expected until Federal Budget

Matt Woodley

30/04/2021 4:31:57 PM

But the Department of Health has revealed which mental health phone consultation MBS item numbers will remain beyond 30 June.

GP on the phone.
More detailed information on the upcoming telehealth changes will be published alongside the Federal Budget.

Patients will be able to access a number of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers to support extended mental health phone consultations until at least 31 December.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had earlier announced that Medicare-funded longer phone consultations will not be included in the next temporary extension of telehealth, but a Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson has since expanded on the announcement, clarifying that some mental health phone items will remain.
‘The broad range of GP attendances that were replicated for telephone delivery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be replaced with a smaller number of telephone items,’ the spokesperson said.
‘[However], certain mental health treatment services, including longer consultations delivered by telephone will be retained. This will include items such as 2712, 2713, 2721 and 2725.’
RACGP President Dr Karen Price told newsGP she is pleased that some of the extended mental health phone consultation items have been retained, but is still anxious to see the final details once they are released.
‘These extended phone consultations can be a lifeline for our patients, particularly those who are vulnerable or live in rural and remote areas and don’t have the same access to specialised mental health support as many other Australians,’ she said.
‘GPs are the gateway to mental health treatment in this country, and considering we are in the middle of the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, it is vital we provide as many avenues as possible for people to access this support.
‘So while I welcome the retention of these invaluable patient rebates, the college will continue to strongly advocate for the inclusion of as many Medicare-funded options as possible for GPs and the Australian public.’
According to the DoH, more detailed information on the upcoming telehealth changes will be published alongside the Federal Budget on 11 May.
‘The [incoming] changes are informed by Medicare data and expert advice, including the MBS Review Taskforce findings on telehealth,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Since the introduction of telehealth items as part of the [Federal] Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, around six out of every seven GP telehealth consultations, across the range of items available, is a phone consultation equivalent to a Level A or Level B attendance.
‘The Government continues to work with peak bodies to co-design permanent post pandemic telehealth as part of broader primary care reforms to modernise Medicare and provide flexibility of access to primary and allied healthcare services.’
Dr Price said further discussions between the college and the Government will continue to convey the complexity of work that GPs undertake, and emphasise why flexibility of care is important.
‘No one deals with the variety and breadth of patients – and their individual healthcare needs – in the same manner as a GP. We have a proven track record of excellence and need to be entrusted to do the job properly,’ she said.
‘High quality care should not be dependent on a postcode or six-figure salary. Everyone deserves the same level of healthcare and GPs must be supported to deliver this to our patients.
‘For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have found telephone telehealth to be a vital connection to primary care services. We should be adding healthcare options, not taking them away – especially when the gap in healthcare outcomes remains so large.  
‘For too long general practice has been asked to do more with less. It’s time for change.’
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Dr Alan Graham MacKenzie   1/05/2021 8:34:17 AM

With The time definition of telephone items (5 ,10,w20 min etc) ,are the Government talking about the time actually on the phone or the total time that phone consultation takes from start to conclusion .
Eg Hi Doc
Can you do a repeat for all my scripts and send them to the pharmacy by fax and post ,and can I have a referral to the heart specialist,skin specialist and orthopedic surgeon.Oh ,and my Centrelink certificate is due as well .Can you send it to them .
Phone call 3-5 minutes max Business arising from phone call 20-30 min minimum
Beware .The Government loves ambiguity as in the 12 month Rule

Dr Duncan MacWalter   1/05/2021 9:31:43 AM

Telehealth is also perfect for chronic disease plan reviews. Eg Diabetes, especially rurally. We can send patients the form via SMS. We can discuss the results via phone. Review scripts and send via ePrescribing. Video is an option, but elderly struggle with it, and rurally the connection can be very poor.
Seeing stable chronic patients annually is sensible, but the reviews don't need to be F2F, and video adds nothing unless someone may be acutely unwell.

Dr Parvathy Murali   1/05/2021 9:49:07 AM

What action college has taken to support the GPS asked to review and pay back the money paid for tele health consults done by GPS
very stressful and most of the GPS not willing to do tele health I will not be interested to do telehealth I did the telehealth to help these patients and yo protect my vlinic staffs from covid 19 and in return i have hot more stress and have to spend more time reviewing the consults and to psy back the money
Leave alone money the stress and fatgue due to paper works driving GPsnuts
Better not to have telehealth
Public shold be advised about the restrictions in telehealth bytmedicare
They fo mot know and asking for telehealth and wben reception tell about medicare redtrictions in telehealth tbey verbslly abuse them !!

Dr Parvathy Murali   1/05/2021 9:56:33 AM

Why dont they put restrictions to normal medicare items also like patients shold be seen by GPS in past 12 months
Patiens are restricted to seeing only their GPS
Mostof thevtime bulk billi g practices have to accept variryy of patients Some due to finanvial stress not able to contiue payong gap fee and see GPS they use to see private billing These are the patients asking appoinrments in bulk billing clinics sometimes and we cannot refuse giving them service It is very hard to do with this current telehealth restrictions Public should be advised very clearly by medicare when tbey can bool for telehealth Otherwise they book online appointments and when they were told about the restritions and we cannot const for that reaso s they get angry and frustrated and abuse over telephone!!

Dr Aline Suan Lin Smith   1/05/2021 7:06:59 PM

I agree with all my colleagues above.
It's truly a dog's breakfast!
The rules are not clearly advised to patients , whose responsibility was that?
Each time the government announces some covid related changes that affect health care delivery, GPs have been left having to explain it to patients...we are continually taken for granted and asked to do more with less.
Let's go on strike! I'm tired....

Dr Parvathy Murali   2/05/2021 3:33:00 PM

I agree We are taken for granted Medicare rebate frozen and now restrictions in telehealth and plans to extend further Govr not undetstanding the value of primary health care and GPs role GP.s are hard working and strwssed and poor emunerations compared to other specialisations Young doctors are not attracted towrds GP training
We need to do smething Vollege has to do more about this May be strike is one option and we should make the govt to understand the importance of general practice