Vulnerable patients and doctors have received improved protection from coronavirus (COVID-19) after increased access to telehealth services passed Parliament last night.
Government has extensively consulted with AMA, RACGP, ACCRM, RDAA, and other key peak bodies and members of the medical profession and health professions, to ensure Medicare is responsive to the challenges of COVID-19.
Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton, said the changes would provide peace of mind for many regional communities.
“As the coronavirus situation develops, we need to ensure we protect the vulnerable and it remains important regional Australians can access their regular medical services.
“To help ensure these services continue, the government is expanding access to telehealth services so vulnerable patients and doctors alike needn’t risk unnecessary human contact.
“As of last night, the Government enables all vulnerable general practitioners and other vulnerable health professionals who are currently authorised to use telehealth item numbers, to use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients.”
This includes health care providers who are:
- Aged at least 70 years old;
- Indigenous and aged at least 50 years old;
- A parent of a child under 12 months;
- Immune compromised; or
- Have a chronic medical condition that results in increased risk from coronavirus infection.
Amendments to Medicare are being implemented quickly, in a staged and proportionate way, to ensure critical health services can continue to operate and the integrity of our health system is maintained.
The Government is also consulting with the AMA, RACGP, ACCRM, RDAA and other critical parts of the medical profession during the course of this week to further expand our telehealth response.
This co-designed approach will look to the best practise expansion of telehealth items for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to see any general practitioner or medical specialist during the COVID-19 health emergency.
For details on when telehealth items can be used please consult the MBS Online website.
Government will continue to communicate changes on the Department of Health website, with regular webinar updates listed online, and through peak bodies.