New guidelines for telehealth consultations

Morgan Liotta

27/05/2019 1:40:59 PM

The updated RACGP resource is designed to help practices make use of MBS-supported video consultations.

RACGP telehealth video consultations guide
The RACGP has provided a new resource to help GPs navigate new MBS items for telehealth.

The RACGP’s Telehealth video consultations guide has effectively consolidated current resources into a single point of reference.
The guide is designed to support general practices in making use of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)-supported telehealth video consultations, and provide safe facilitation and coordination of these consultations. It outlines the clinical, administrative and technical considerations when introducing this mode of healthcare delivery, and focuses on telehealth video consultations covered under the MBS.
There are currently 23 MBS items available for practitioners – including GPs, nurse practitioners and Aboriginal health workers – who provide patient-end clinical support during video consultations with a specialist, consultant physician or consultant psychiatrist.
MBS rebates are available for patients who:

  • are located outside of Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area (RA) 1 classification (major cities)
  • access care from an eligible Aboriginal medical or health service
  • live in an eligible residential aged care facility
  • are located more than 15 km from the specialist who is providing the treatment. 
MBS items are also available for GPs providing Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) services in rural areas, and temporary item numbers available to provide general mental health support services by video consultations to patients in drought-affected and flood-affected areas.
Dr Amandeep Hansra, member of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM), was part of the review team for the Telehealth video consultations guide. She believes the resource provides important information for GPs and practice staff, particularly those based in rural areas, enabling better access to healthcare.

Dr-Amandeep-Hansra-Article.jpgDr Amandeep Hansra believes investment in funding telehealth will be advantageous for the future of healthcare.
‘This guide focuses on telehealth consultations covered under the MBS where a GP, practice nurse or Aboriginal health worker is physically present with the patient to provide patient-end services during a consultation with a specialist at another location,’ Dr Hansra told newsGP.
‘Telehealth allows healthcare practitioners to deliver care in a way that may be more convenient for their patients, and enables improved access and improved health outcomes, particularly for those who live in rural or remote areas, or have other barriers to accessing timely healthcare services.’
Those other barriers include patients who are older, have a disability or who need to see a healthcare practitioner frequently, such as those with a chronic disease, according to Dr Hansra.
‘Being able to deliver some consultations more conveniently through telehealth can improve engagement and compliance for these patients,’ she said.
In addition to existing MBS items, Dr Hansra sees further investment in telehealth funding as beneficial for the future, but government assistance is essential.
‘Provision of telehealth services is a critical part of ensuring we can continue to deliver care into the future as demands for healthcare increase,’ she said.
‘To do this, there needs to be adequate funding in place to remunerate healthcare providers who choose to provide care to their patients utilising available technology.
‘There is evidence that providing telehealth services can improve access and better health outcomes for patients, so the investment in funding telehealth will invariably show a return into the future.’

ehealth MBS items Rural and remote healthcare Telehealth Video consultations

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