Technology-based patient consultations are increasingly being used by all medical specialties.
Technology-based patient consultations are defined by the Medical Board of Australia as:
patient consultations that use any form of technology, including, but not restricted to videoconferencing, internet and telephone, as an alternative to face-to-face consultations.
Technology-based patient consultations are an appropriate alternative to consulting with a patient in the same physical room when they are used:
- as an adjunct to normal medical practice;
- for regular patients of the practice;
- for patients who have been referred by another medical practitioner;
- when it is clinically appropriate for the patient’s circumstances.
Used in this way, technology-based patient consultations can improve patient access to care and can enhance efficiency in medical practice. They complement but do not replace face-to-face consultations, which enable a physical examination of the patient as part of the therapeutic process. Technology-based patient consultations should not be used in a way that fragments the ongoing care and management of the patient.
When providing a technology-based patient consultation, a medical practitioner should be confident that:
- the consultation occurs in a private and secure environment to protect patient privacy;
- the patient is properly identified before commencing the consultation;
- the patient understands and agrees the arrangements for technology-based consultations;
- the practitioner reviews the patient’s file and makes a clinical record as they would do in a face-to-face consultation; and
- the patient is informed about costs and billing arrangements for technology-based consultations.
As with face-to-face consultations, medical fees for technology-based patient consultations should include the indirect costs of providing the service such as:
- the scheduling of appointments (for the practitioner and the patient to be available at the same pre-determined time);
- secure IT infrastructure, and telephone and/or data lines;
- electronic billing arrangements; and
- arranging follow up services for the patient.
As a medical service, it is appropriate that Medicare Benefits arrangements assist patients with the costs of medical care provided using technology-based patient consultations.