New COVID-19 telehealth arrangements for patients

2 Apr 2020

A breakthrough agreement brokered by the AMA with the Federal Government for expanded telehealth access to general practitioners and other medical specialists will allow continuation of normal patient care, and reduce the need for scarce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said the new telehealth arrangements will allow even more patients from this week to have consultations with general practitioners and some other medical specialists without leaving home.

Dr Bartone said that the AMA has been working with the Federal Government for weeks to ensure that telehealth is widely available so that patients can access care without the risk of exposure to or spread of the coronavirus.

Telehealth consultations are now available to all Medicare-eligible Australians. The requirement to have seen the consulting GP within the last 12 months has also been waived.

Dr Bartone said that, as part of the negotiations with Health Minister Hunt, the AMA raised concerns about the ongoing sustainability of medical practices should they face business disruption or closure following exposure to COVID-19.

“The AMA agreement with Minister Hunt confirms that the Federal Government will extend three measures to provide ongoing support for general practice and other specialist practices,” Dr Bartone said.

These measures include:

  • Doubling the bulk billing incentive for general practitioners to treat patients by telehealth without patient payment.
  • An enhanced Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) for general practices during the COVID-19 period, recognising that some consultations require face to face consultations and physical examinations.
  • Changes to bulk billing requirements that will allow doctors to follow their usual business practice for telehealth consultations, while concessional patients who visit their GP will continue to receive services at no cost (coming soon).

Read the full media release here.

A factsheet that summarises the changes to COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS telehealth services is available here. 

A summary of changes to item numbers is available from MBS Online here.

A factsheet about the changes to Incentive payments and PIP payments is available here.

The AMA’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage is being updated daily and is available here.