AMA repeats call for telehealth to stay

2 Jul 2020

The AMA has reiterated its call for broader access to Medicare-funded telehealth consultations with GPs and non-GP specialists to remain an integral part of the health system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology this week to discuss the AMA submission to the committee, which promotes the retention of telehealth initiatives. 

Dr Bartone said that around 20 per cent of all Medicare-funded consultations with a doctor are now being provided by telehealth, either over the phone or via video, since temporary Medicare telehealth items were introduced in March in response to COVID-19. 

“Patients are clearly making the case for telehealth consultations to become a permanent feature of our health system for both GPs and non-GP specialists,” Dr Bartone said. 

“Telehealth is the norm in many parts of the world, providing patients with a convenient option to access care where they don’t need a physical examination. And the AMA has long championed the case for the introduction and expansion of telehealth in Australia. 

“Telehealth is not a substitute for face-to-face visits to the doctor, but it does provide a cost-effective option that can supplement traditional visits. 

Dr Bartone highlighted that the COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to trial telehealth in the Australian context, and that it has been an outstanding success that is supporting high-quality patient care from both GPs and non-GP specialists, which should continue for the long term. 

The AMA is working closely with the Health Minister to provide the Government with advice on how to move forward on the permanent retention of Medicare-funded telehealth arrangements, recognising that they need to be underpinned by a sustainable model that supports good medical practice. 

“For telehealth in general practice, we need to build on what is key to our very successful primary care system - the relationship between a usual GP and a patient,” Dr Bartone said.   

“This means that GP telehealth consultations need to be restricted to a patient’s usual GP or usual general practice. 

“It is important to maintain the doctor-patient relationship. Telehealth will ensure continuity of care to complement that trusting relationship.” 

The AMA submission is available here. 

Read the full media release here.