Changes to COVID-19 Telehealth Services for GPs from 1 July 2021

1 Jul 2021

The Minister for Health announced as part of the 2021-22 Budget that the Government would be extending the COVID-19 telehealth items through until 31 December 2021, including for GPs. 

Video consultation items have been extended without change (i.e., they continue to mirror items for face-to-face services), but patients who need to access a GP via phone will be limited to a Level A or Level B equivalent as the Government undertakes to encourage video consultations over phone consultations. New phone items include: 

  • Short consultation, less than 6 minutes for straightforward care, such as repeat prescriptions and diagnostic referrals – Item 91890 

  • Long consultation, 6 minutes or greater for more complex attendances – Item 91891 

Certain mental health treatment services, including those involving longer consultations delivered by telephone will be retained. This will include items such as 92126, 92127, 91842 and 91843. 

GPs and OMPs working in general practice can only perform a telehealth service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient, with limited exemptions. From 1 July 2021, additional exemptions to this requirement were introduced for patients accessing specific MBS items for pregnancy counselling and blood borne viruses, sexual or reproductive health (new items have been created for these services). 

An established relationship means the medical practitioner performing the service: 

  • has provided at least one face-to-face service to the patient in the 12 months preceding the telehealth attendance; or 

  • is located at a medical practice where the patient has had at least one face-to-face service arranged by that practice in the 12 months preceding the telehealth attendance (including services performed by another doctor located at the practice, or a service performed by another health professional located at the practice, such as a practice nurse or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker); or 

  • is a participant in the Approved Medical Deputising Service program, and the Approved Medical Deputising Service provider employing the medical practitioner has a formal agreement with a medical practice that has provided at least one face-to-face service to the patient in the 12 months preceding the telehealth attendance. 

The existing relationship requirement does not apply to: 

  • children under the age of 12 months; 

  • people who are homeless; 

  • patients living in a COVID-19 impacted area; 

  • patients receiving an urgent after-hours (unsociable hours) service; or 

  • patients of medical practitioners at an Aboriginal Medical Service or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service. 

More information on the COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services for GPs and Other Medical Practitioners is available here.