Australians embrace telehealth to save lives during COVID-19

More than 4.3 million health and medical services have now been delivered to a total of more than three million patients through the telehealth items introduced by the Australian Government for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The use of telehealth instead of face-to-face consultations is helping to stop the spread of the virus, protecting both patients and frontline health professionals, and saving lives.

The number of telehealth consultations has rapidly expanded, to more than 700,000 in the past week. This is ensuring Australians get the care they need to look after their general health.

Every patient who uses a telehealth service is helping to maintain social distancing and flatten the coronavirus curve in Australia.

The significant fall in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases is a testament to the rapid action by Australian governments and the willingness of all Australians to do their bit to contain the virus.

An additional 28 telehealth items for specialists and allied health professionals will be added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule today. These items will allow more patients to receive essential care by video conference or telephone during the coronavirus pandemic.

Regular billing practices will apply to these services, and other specialist and allied health services provided by telehealth.

The health profession has worked in genuine partnership with the Government to develop the new telehealth items as a matter of urgency.

A total of 274 new MBS items have now been created and implemented in six weeks, with the first items commencing on 13 March 2020.

This is an extraordinary feat and a reflection of our doctors’ and allied health professionals’ commitment to delivering accessible, best-practice care for all patients, during this difficult time.

Details of the additional telehealth items are on the MBS website

Some conditions and consultations are not appropriate for telehealth. GP clinics remain open to allow attendance by patients who need face-to-face consultations and assistance.

Telehealth must only be offered by a health care provider if they also have measures in place for their patients to have a face to face consultation when this is clinically necessary. 

The Government is supporting general practices to keep their doors open by doubling the bulk billing incentive and Practice Incentive Payment.

Patients with concession cards, children under 16 and vulnerable patients will continue to be bulk billed for GP services provided via the new telehealth items, with regular billing practices permitted for all other services.

It is imperative Australians continue to receive the high quality medical care and advice they expect and deserve from their health care providers.

The telehealth arrangements have been put in place as a measure to ensure safety for patients and practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government will continue to review and refine telehealth policies throughout this period.