AMA welcomes the restored telehealth services to meet pandemic demand

Following the meeting last week between the AMA and other peak medical bodies with the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and the Minister for Regional Services, Dr David Gillespie, the Government has endorsed AMA proposals to restore access to GP and non-GP specialist telehealth items. AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, believes that the temporary restoration of telehealth services announced by the Government will benefit many Australians who need to see their doctor during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The AMA welcomes the six-month return to the telehealth rules used earlier in the pandemic. COVID-19 positive patients and other patients wanting to see their doctor will now have better access to medical treatment by phone or video,” said Dr Khorshid.

“GPs will be able to bill Medicare for telehealth MBS Level C consultations, meaning they can spend more time on a greater range of patient needs via telehealth.

The Department of Health has provided factsheets on the Longer Telephone Consultation and MBS COVID-19 Management Support. The existing relationship rule still applies for telehealth services, however, any patient who is who is subject to COVID-19 public health orders requiring isolation or quarantine will have unrestricted access to telehealth services.

“Medicare compliance activities will also be moderated, recognising that doctors will use more telehealth as more patients are COVID positive, isolating or just being COVID-cautious.”

The AMA has confirmed that the delay in telehealth being included in the 80/20 rule and the introduction of the new 30/20 rule for phone consultations to 1 July 2022 will not impact telehealth items being included in SWPE calculations. The inclusion of telehealth to the SWPE count was extensively advocated for by the AMA last year.

Dr Khorshid explained that COVID-19 patient demand on general practice was yet to peak, with many medical practices forced to triage and care for COVID positive patients on top of usual patient care. He said more help from government was needed for medical practices to care for markedly increased health needs of the community.

“The surge in Omicron infection is seeing patients reaching out to general practice like never before. Many practices are struggling to answer all the phone calls they are receiving and provide the care that is required of their patients,” Dr Khorshid said.

In a message to AMA members this week Dr Khorshid advised that, in recognition of the pressures on general practice, ongoing discussions with Minister Hunt are planned to seek further relaxing of the existing patient rule and providing Rapid Antigen Tests to help keep medical practices operating.

Full media release can be accessed here.

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