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Joint appeal issued for delay of 30/20 telehealth rule


Jolyon Attwooll


30/09/2022 4:34:09 PM

The new compliance measure is being introduced today, despite the lingering threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

GP on phone
Both the RACGP and the AMA have urged the Government not to restrict phone consultations.

Both the RACGP and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) are urging Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler to delay the introduction of the new 30/20 telehealth compliance measure.
 
The rule is set to be in place from 1 October, but RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price and AMA President Professor Steve Robson have co-signed a letter addressed to Minister Butler, urging for its postponement.
 
‘Australia is still in a pandemic and we know that a further wave of infections is expected later this year,’ the joint letter states.
 
‘Being able to switch to telephone-based services for patients remains an important tool for GPs to deploy when they are infected or a close contact or when their practice is hit by multiple staff infections.’
 
Professor Price believes that deferring the rule would be ‘a clear sign’ the Federal Government recognises the ongoing challenges for GPs.
 
‘This pandemic is not over and now is not the time to tie our hands behind our backs and restrict phone consultations,’ she said.
 
‘This is no time for complacency and no time to limit a tool that we can use to help our patients – especially older people and those with multiple, chronic conditions – that need to be carefully managed through regular consultations.’
 
Should the rule proceed as planned, it would mean any GP giving 30 or more daily telephone consultations on 20 days or more during a 12-month period would be referred to the Professional Services Review (PSR).
 
Its implementation has already been deferred twice, first in January 2022 and then at the end of June, when Minister Butler announced a last-minute postponement.
 
The Minister appeared to leave the door open for possible further delays at the time. Both the AMA and RACGP Presidents contend that the current circumstances warrant that happening.
 
‘Throughout the pandemic GPs have had to balance the need to provide care for their patients with protecting themselves and their families from infection,’ the letter states.
 
‘Telephone consultations have been essential to ensuring GPs can strike this balance.’
 
With many patients not able to use videoconferencing, they say phone consultations are ‘an essential service’. They also highlight the many tweaks to billing requirements since the arrival of COVID-19.
 
‘GPs continue to struggle with the constant changes they have been subject to throughout the pandemic in relation to MBS billing arrangements,’ the letter states.
 
‘We are not aware of concerns within the Department of Health about delaying the introduction of the 30/20 rule and encourage you to err on the side of access to care and keep the current arrangements in place.’
 
The Department of Health was approached for comment.
 
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Dr Catherine Emma Linda Sloan   1/10/2022 8:58:52 AM

Decreasing Telehealth now seems incredibly misguided, from an infection-control perspective, but there are also other reasons for continuing it.
I worked in Britain, pre-Covid, where telephone consultations were used a lot- both to save GP time and for patients’ convenience. Our fee-for-service model makes saving GP time less relevant in Australia, but I wonder at the government encouraging patients to travel to a GP for consultations that do not require examination.
This is so much more relevant in Australia than in Britain given the distances involved. From an ecological viewpoint it is wrong.
Given the socio-economic status of many who live rurally, discouraging Telehealth will further disadvantage those who need most help, and is likely to widen gaps in health between the richest and poorest.
Video calls sometimes offer more clinical information but this is not true if connections are poor- as they often are, more remotely.
Very pleased that we are standing against it.


Dr Mona Eltayeb Salim Mohamed   1/10/2022 10:50:14 AM

Myself very impressed by the continuing of care of many patients through telephone consultation and I helped many regional residents in remote areas, beaches and villages in saving their time traveling unnecessarily for script or medical advice not required physical examination.