Telehealth and COVID-19 Update

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases exponentially in Australia many of us will be exploring the new telehealth item numbers. The information on these seem to be changing daily, but currently these are the key things to know.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases exponentially in Australia many of us will be exploring the new telehealth item numbers. 

The information seems to be changing daily but currently these are the key things to know.

Arrangements will expire on 30 September 2020 unless revoked prior.

The items originally applied to 3 groups:

1. Patients at risk of COVID-19: already diagnosed with COVID-19 or self isolating as per home isolation guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

2. Patients considered to be more susceptible to the virus if they have been seen in your clinic in the last 12 months: 

  • people aged over 70
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50
  • people with chronic health conditions or who are immunosuppressed
  • parents with (or people who care for) a child under 12 months and people who are pregnant

3. GPs unable to attend their practice, due to self-isolation (either because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or advised to self-isolate in accordance with AHPPC)

Medicare-funded telehealth has been expanded to include health practitioners who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and will soon cover all patients and practitioners.

Doctors who are pregnant, 70 and over, indigenous and 50 and over, have an infant under 12 months at home, or are immunocompromised or have a chronic health condition, are now eligible to bulk bill telehealth for all their consultations. 

According to AMA, the government will also announce a comprehensive telehealth model of care at the end of the week that will open telehealth consults to all patients, with or without Covid-19, from GPs and medical specialists. This will include mental health and allied health consultations.

As with any telehealth consult:

  • you need to be able to verify the identity of the patient
  • the usual principles apply for obtaining your patient’s informed consent and protecting their privacy
  • you need to keep appropriate records of the consultation 
  • if providing prescriptions you need to have enough information about the patient’s past medical history and current medical conditions, and medications to satisfy yourself that the prescription is appropriate and not contra-indicated
  • have a template that you use for every consult so you don’t forget the key points

You will need to decide what you feel comfortable doing over the phone and acknowledge your limits. You can always review, review, review.

We will continue to update you as things evolve.

http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/news-2020-03-01-latest-news-March

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