Telehealth availability to expand rapidly

April 1, 2020

Over the weekend, the Federal Government announced that Medicare funded telehealth services will be available and in place until 30 September for general practice, medical, primary care and mental health services.

Eligible services include consultation by medical specialists, general practitioners, mental health treatment, chronic disease management, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments, services to people with eating disorders, pregnancy support counselling, services to residents in aged care facilities, children with autism and after-hours consultations.

In addition to the expanded items eligible for Medicare funding over telehealth, the Commonwealth has announced that the bulk-billing incentive for GPs will be doubled during the course of the COVID-19 response, and an incentive payment will be made available to ensure practices remain open to provide face-to-face services for essential care that cannot be provided via telehealth.

Concessional and vulnerable patients will continue to be bulk-billed and providers will be able to apply their usual billing practices to telehealth consultations.

The next stage of the planned response is to expand access to non-GP specialist telehealth services, which will be managed in collaboration with the relevant professions.

The VHA has been a strong advocate for this model of care and the need to shift the thinking on how and where healthcare is delivered.