AMA Submission to ANAO Performance Audit on the Expansion of Telehealth Services

The AMA has provided a submission to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Performance Audit of the expansion of telehealth services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ANAO sought comment on how efficiently and effectively the Department of Health has ‘managed the expansion of telehealth services during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Amongst other things, the AMA response highlighted that:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and given that GPs and hospitals have been dealing with an unusually high influenza case load on top of tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases every day, the restrictions to telehealth services that came into effect on 1 July 2022 are unwarranted and place the health of both vulnerable patients and health practitioners at risk;
  • Frequent and often last-minute changes to rules and requirements and ambiguity around some aspects of eligibility and exemptions often created confusion and a significant additional administrative workload for a general practice sector already reeling from the extra workload created by COVID-19 cases, and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters;
  • The lack of any requirement that the patient had an existing relationship with a general practitioner in the first few months of the COVID-19 roll-out allowed the emergence of ‘pop-up’ and pharmacy telehealth models of telehealth which undermined the foundations of quality primary care, and blurred the important distinction between the prescribing and dispensing of medicines; and
  • The initial bulk-billing requirement placed on GPs was inequitable, of questionable legality, had a significant impact on the viability of many general practices given the long-term impacts of the Medicare
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