Government to ease restrictions on telehealth

15 Jul 2021

In a welcome move, the Australian Government has reinstated longer, level C telephone consultations in COVID hotspots for patients to access safer consultations with their GP.

Patients in declared COVID-19 hotspots will be able to talk with their GPs for longer on the telephone following a decision by the Government to ease restrictions on the use of telehealth as part of its pandemic response. 

The Budget measure in effect from 1 July restricted telephone consultations to short and standard consultations as part of its efforts to encourage patients to use video consultations. The AMA welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to relax this decision.

The decision to reinstate a longer level C telephone consultation item was critical for patients with complex health needs and followed discussions over the past few days between the AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt.

Dr Khorshid said, “The latest COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney has demonstrated consultations with GPs via the telephone remains critical for patient safety and access during lockdowns.

“For many patients, using the telephone is their preferred method and it helps ensure that people, who lack technological expertise of videoconferencing software or don’t have access to adequate internet speeds, are not denied access to essential GP services.

“Patients with respiratory symptoms are being discouraged from visiting their GPs until they get a negative COVID-19 test,” he said.

The AMA supports the Government’s Medicare-funded telehealth and believes that it has been one of the most successful measures as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.