Video call with a doctor

Australian Department of Health’s National Health Plan for Coronavirus (COVID-19) allows doctors, nurses, midwives and mental health professionals to deliver services via telehealth services as long as those services are bulk billed.

What is it?

Telehealth means using telecommunication technology, including telephone and video calling, like Skype and FaceTime, to conduct medical consultations remotely, reducing the chance of spreading infection from sick patients to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to and subsequently to other patients.

How does it work?

Temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) item numbers have been rolled out allowing GPs and other health professionals to be more flexible with their delivery of services so patients who are at risk or unwell can stay safe. The new MBS items enable people to access essential health services in their home while they are in self-isolation or quarantine and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable people in the community. These Medicare item numbers will be in place for six months initially, ending in September. Health Minister Greg Hunt said in July that

Telehealth has been enthusiastically accepted by doctors and patients alike. I hope and intend for telehealth to be a positive legacy of this crisis and am already engaged with the medical community in planning a long-term future for telehealth.

Who can access it?

People in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 can see any eligible health provider with these new telehealth items. Patients who are at risk or in vulnerable groups can also see a health provider via telehealth for medical issues other than COVID-19 if they have seen that provider (or another provider within the same practice) at least once face-to-face in the last 12 months. Updates were made on 20 July 2020 to ensure patients receive care from a GP or practice with whom they have an existing relationship. All Medicare eligible Australians can now receive these services. GPs and OMPs working in general practice may only provide a telehealth service where they have an existing relationship with the patient.

Telehealth services will be available to:

  • people isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner or in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by the AHPPC
  • people who meet the testing guidelines for COVID-19
  • people over the age of 70
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50
  • people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised
  • parents with new babies and people who are pregnant
  • a person who meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.

How to use it

Contact your GP doctor, mental health practitioner or midwife by phone, especially if you have cold or flu symptoms and explain your situation.

Updates from July 20

As per the Minister of Health Media Release:

Telehealth GP providers will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide Telehealth services.
This will ensure patients continue to receive quality, ongoing care from a GP who knows their medical history and needs.
A relationship is defined as the patient having seen the same practitioner for a face-to-face service in the last 12 months, or having seen a doctor at the same practice for a face-to-face service during the same period.
In areas under stage three restrictions in Victoria, this requirement will not apply to those living under new restrictions in Victoria.
It will also exempt people under the age of 12 months or people who are experiencing homelessness. They will be able to have access to any provider.

More information

For more information, you can read the fact sheets

Media Release - Continuous care with telehealth stage seven

Coronavirus Health Information Line 

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Free Call: 1800 020 080

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IDEAS Information Officers answer these calls and have all the latest information available. Free Call:1800 643 787

See all of our COVID-19 resources and information here.

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