MBS Health Assessment advice still unclear - AMA

3 Jul 2014

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that general practices remain uncertain about whether practice nurse time can be counted for health assessments, with the latest advice this week from the Department of Health adding more confusion rather than clarification.

A/Prof Owler said that GPs must be advised immediately in plain English that they are permitted to take into account the time spent by general practice nurses in completing health assessments.

“The latest advice from the Department is vague and unclear,” A/Prof Owler said.

“At no time is it stated clearly that the practice can add the practice nurse time to the doctor’s time to determine the appropriate Medicare health assessment item.

“The Department advice says only that ‘a practice nurse may assist a GP with performing the health assessments’.

“The AMA calls on the Government to provide certainty to GPs about the processing of health assessment items.

“This only requires a small amendment to the latest advice so that it reads: ‘The time spent by the GP and the practice nurse is one consideration but not the only consideration’.

“This change will ensure that general practice can continue to provide high quality preventive health care. It will also provide greater job security for practice nurses and ease the administrative burden on practice managers.

“The patients most affected by this confusion are the most vulnerable patients – the elderly, children, and the disabled.

“GPs need greater support, not greater hurdles, to provide care for their most needy patients” A/Prof Owler said.

A/Prof Owler said that the original Fact Sheet for the Health Assessment items was very clear with its advice, stating: ‘A registered Aboriginal health worker or practice nurse can assist the medical practitioner by undertaking the information collection stage of a health assessment and by providing patients with information about recommended interventions (at the direction of the medical practitioner). The time needed to undertake aspects of the health assessment may be added to the time taken by the medical practitioner to complete the assessment’.

This clarity is missing from the latest advice.

Media release  

Health Assessment changes revised advice