GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 36

13 Sep 2013

Dr Steve Hambleton

Coalition election win to deliver more support for general practice

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, has congratulated the Coalition on its election win and said that the AMA looks forward to working with the new Government to provide better health services for all Australians.

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA had a positive and rewarding working relationship with the new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, when he was the Health Minister in the Howard Government, and in recent times the AMA has consulted closely with Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Peter Dutton.

"The health policies that the Coalition took to the election responded in part to concerns raised by the AMA, especially in providing greater support for general practice. We will be seeking an active role in the review of Medicare Locals and we will be urging the new Government to immediately scrap the cap on claims for work-related self-education expenses," Dr Hambleton said.

Full media release.

Telehealth making a difference

Telehealth is proving to be cost effective, according to a study published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia. Associate Professor Sabe Sabesan and colleagues analysed the cost savings of a teleoncology model of care at the Townsville Cancer Centre, compared with the usual model of care.

The analysis examined 605 teleoncology consultations with 147 patients, conducted from 1 March 2007 to 30 November 2011 at six rural satellite centres in northern Queensland. The total cost for set-up and staffing to manage the service was $442,276 and net savings were found to be $320,118, mainly due to avoidance of travel costs for patients and their escorts and for specialists.

Savings were greatest at centres with larger patient numbers at farther distances. For smaller rural centres, the authors suggested that sharing of the telehealth system by more than one specialty would likely improve the savings. The authors concluded by saying, ideally, net savings should be redirected to further improving rural infrastructure and capabilities.

Cost savings from a telemedicine model of care in northern Queensland, Australia.

Australian Medicine - get the latest news

This week's edition of Australian Medicine looks at the election of the new Coalition Government. Will it "under promise and over-deliver" on health? As well as the election coverage, there is news of the latest AMA Position Statements and the views of AMA Federal Councillors about the issues affecting medical practice.

Other topics of interest include: the winner of the AMA Indigenous Peoples' medical Scholarship for 2013; the AMA call for the new Government to conduct an urgent audit into the coordination of the delivery of Defence health services by Medibank Health Solutions; the need to encourage more junior doctors to choose a clinical academic career; the AMA's adoption of the World Medical Association's WMA Regulations in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence as formal AMA policy; and the rise in deaths from accidental and prescription medicine overdoses that has, for the first time, exceeded the national road toll.

Also of interest to GPs, Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMA Council of General Practice, discusses how GP MRI referrals are benefiting patients in his article GP MRI referrals: a great way to support general practice.

How to determine the right fees for your practice

The AMA encourages medical practitioners to determine their own fees based on their own practice costs. To guide medical practitioners in determining their fees and to assist those considering moving from bulk billing to patient billing, the AMA provides members with tools and resources, which are available online.

There is a checklist (Item 6 on the AMA Fees List page) for those medical practitioners who have decided to move from bulk billing to patient billing and a template letter (Item 5) to explain to their patients why their fee is different to the Medicare rebate.

The AMA Gaps Poster illustrates why patients might have to pay a gap. The poster shows the effect of the difference between the indexation of Medicare Schedule fees and the Consumer Price Index and average weekly earnings. Download a printable A4 size poster.

Medicare Forum Newsletter

The September issue of Medicare's newsletter, Forum, is now available on the Department of Human Services website. This issue contains information on a range of topics, including: the addition of a new combined bivalent vaccine (Hib-MenC) to the National Immunisation Program; the requirement, from 1 October 2013, for a patient's annual diabetes cycle of care to include a kidney function test (eGFR) under the PIP Diabetes Incentive; changes, from 2 September 2013, to the eHealth record individual Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates; a new compliance program that outlines the compliance priorities for 2013-15; and services available via Health Professional Online Services (HPOS).

For more, visit the Human Services website and search 'Forum'.

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus - update

Four new cases of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia and two in Qatar have been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). As of 30 August 2013, the WHO had received reports of 108 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 50 deaths. Situation updates will now be every fortnight - latest update.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.

In this issue:

AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community. Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing