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When can we use telehealth?
The Commonwealth emphasises the importance of using telehealth item numbers responsibly, appropriately and for the right reasons during this pandemic. A service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.
From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-call) and phone consultation items are available to all Medicare eligible Australians for a wide range of consultations. The new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for coronavirus (COVID-19) are general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting coronavirus (COVID-19).
The item numbers must be bulk billed. Providers do not need to be in their regular practice to provide telehealth services. Providers should use their provider number for their primary location, and must provide safe services in accordance with normal professional standards.
For the latest news on the temporary coronavirus (COVID-19) bulk billed MBS telehealth items please consult www.mbsonline.gov.au, including a link to the temporary item numbers, coronavirus (COVID-19) factsheets and latest news.
What chronic conditions are included in the new provisions for telehealth? Are mental health care plans included too?
From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-call) and phone consultation items are available to all Medicare eligible Australians for a wide range of consultations. The new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for coronavirus (COVID-19) are general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting coronavirus (COVID-19). Mental health plans are included.
For the latest news on the new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for coronavirus (COVID) - please consult www.mbsonline.gov.au, including links to the temporary item numbers coronavirus (COVID-19) factsheets and latest news. Factsheets are available for Allied Health providers, Consumers, GPs and OMPS, Mental Health practitioners, Nurse Practitioners, Obstetric Attendances, participating Midwives and Specialists. Please find further information at COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheets.
What platforms are best use for telehealth/video calls?
MBS telehealth services are videoconference services, and this is the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation. However, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, providers will also be able to offer audio-only services via telephone if video is not available. There are separate items available for the audio-only services.
No specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services. Services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others.
Free versions of these applications (i.e. non-commercial versions) may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy. Practitioners must ensure that their chosen telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.
For further updates, refer to commonwealth government overarching COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheets.
If I cannot physically examine my patient, how can I effectively provide the correct diagnosis and medical advice?
Many important questions and challenges have been raised, and the Commonwealth will continue to work through these. The Commonwealth Government will continue to communicate changes on the Government website www.health.gov.au, with regular webinar updates listed online, and through peak bodies.
How can doctors provide scripts, medical certificates and referrals via telehealth consultation?
Prescriptions can be mailed or emailed to the patient or the patient’s pharmacist – refer to the Provider Frequent Asked Questions at COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheets for temporary telehealth bulk-billed items.
The Home Medicines Service is a temporary program, which aims to support and protect the most vulnerable members of our community from potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) by providing a fee per delivery payable to Australian pharmacies for the home delivery of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medications thereby removing the need for a patient to visit a Pharmacy.
Vulnerable people, and those in home isolation, will be able to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have these items delivered to their homes to reduce their potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19). Further advise can be found at COVID-19 Home Medicine Service.
The Australian Government is currently working to fast track the implementation of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) to help protect people most at-risk in our community from exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19). Updates on this can be viewed on the Government website.
Many important questions and challenges have been raised, and the Commonwealth continues to work through these. We will continue to communicate changes on the Government website www.health.gov.au, with regular webinar updates listed online, and through peak bodies.
Work Safe telehealth item numbers specifically state 'video', do they accept phone consultations (MBS does)?
Although the WorkSafe document does not explicitly outline phone consultations, we have confirmed with WorkSafe that phone consultations are accepted for WorkSafe clients.
Please refer to the MBS Online under the heading 'General Practitioner Attendances' for items numbers for phone consultations (there are separate item numbers for video consultations and phone consultations).
Information about WorkSafe - item codes for telehealth are now available.
Telehealth consulting and conferencing: Privacy and security
This document outlines the telehealth usage rules for consulting and conferencing during coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Telehealth consulting and conferencing: Privacy and security - 14 April 2020 (Word)
Supporting difficult conversations via telehealth and other virtual platforms
Sometimes carers and family members will need to communicate virtually with a healthcare worker about a person they care for. This can be challenging when conversations are about difficult news or decisions and speaking face-to-face isn’t possible.