Expanded telehealth vital to protecting doctors and their patients from COVID-19

26 Mar 2020

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said this week that expanded access to telehealth is vital to contain COVID-19 and to protect the health of frontline doctors and their patients.

Dr Bartone said that the AMA is working very closely with Health Minister Greg Hunt to deliver better telehealth access via phone and video to all Australians as a matter of urgency in this crisis.

“This commitment will see the Government co-design the best practice expansion of telehealth items for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to see any GP or other medical specialist during the COVID-19 health emergency,” Dr Bartone said.

In a very welcome move from the Government, MBS telehealth was expanded on Monday to all vulnerable general practitioners, and other vulnerable health professionals who are currently authorised to use telehealth item numbers, to use telehealth items for all consultations with all their patients.

“This covers healthcare providers who are aged at least 70 years old; or Indigenous and aged at least 50 years old; or pregnant; or a parent of a child under 12 months; or immune-compromised; or have a chronic medical condition that results in increased risk from coronavirus infection,” Dr Bartone said.

The Government is also committed to further changes to Medicare to support a comprehensive telehealth model of care, and this includes finalising the detail of further telehealth operations via phone and video by the end of this week. Once finalised, it is expected that these will be implemented next week.

“Telehealth is a key weapon in the war on COVID-19. Telehealth is essential to reducing the community spread of COVID-19 and protecting doctors, staff, and patients from this virus. It is all about making the community safer.

“It will assure that GPs can more efficiently use their time in helping their patients and their communities. It will reduce demand on valuable PPE.”

Dr Bartone said the AMA is continuing to work closely with the Government in all aspects of responding to COVID-19.

Read the full media release here.

Information on the currently available MBS items is available here.