Quarantined GPs able to work with new telehealth item numbers

Doug Hendrie

13/03/2020 2:22:50 PM

GPs forced to self-isolate will still be able to provide essential healthcare services by using the new telehealth MBS item numbers.

Hand holding a smartphone.
GPs will still be able to contribute to the coronavirus fight.

As providers of frontline health services amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it is vital that GPs are able to work in the event they have to isolate, whether due to close contact with a confirmed case or having contracted the virus themselves.
The new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth item numbers mean isolated GPs will still be able to help their usual patients over the phone or via a video call.
But for GPs who continue providing services at their usual place of work, the new items – in effect as of 13 March – are only available if patients meet specific requirements.
Patients will be eligible for phone or video consultations if they have seen their GP in the last 12 months and are suspected of having the coronavirus-associated disease, COVID-19, or are confirmed cases.
This is intended to allow patients under home quarantine to access healthcare and reduce the risk of further viral spread in the community.
The phone and video consultations will also be available to patient groups at particular risk from the virus, namely those in the broader population over the age of 70, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50, as well as pregnant women or a parent of a child under 12 months of age.
Patients who are being treated for chronic health conditions or those who are immune compromised are also eligible, as these groups are particularly at risk.
Rebates for the new MBS items are dependent on the consultations being bulk billed.
Phone and video (telehealth) are listed as separate MBS item groups, with consultation levels B, C and D covered.
Further information is available on the MBS website.
The Federal Government has set aside around $100 million for the new telehealth and phone items as part of its $2.4 billion coronavirus health response.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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Dr Benjamin James Weatherhead   14/03/2020 6:38:20 AM

Yes, but only if you agree to universal bulk billing. Every single one of the new telehealth items in the legislation ends with "where the service is bulk-billed".
So we either have to accept a basement-price fee, or you have to bill privately and explain to the patient why they are ineligible for their rebate.