The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed an interim Parliamentary Committee report that recommends that Medicare-subsidised telehealth be made permanent.
Earlier this year, the Federal Government heeded the RACGP’s calls to expand subsidised telehealth (video and telephone consultations) to all patients to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and ensure access to care. They are due to expire on 30 September this year.
Chair RACGP Queensland Dr Bruce Willett said the RACGP had long been calling for telehealth to be made permanent.
“We are pleased that the interim report of the Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology has backed the RACGP’s calls for telehealth to be made permanent in its recommendations.
Dr Willett called on the government to provide urgent clarity on the future of telehealth.
“With the September deadline looming, patients and GPs urgently need clarity on the future of telehealth and e-prescribing services. Patients with long term conditions are already being booked in for appointments after 30 September, and general practices need to know whether telehealth is an option.
“The last thing we need is a lack of clarity or significant disruption for patients and GPs across the country. Telehealth must be extended while we work on a suitable long-term solution.
“Patients and their GPs have embraced telehealth – the overwhelming majority of GPs are now offering these services to patients in cities and regional and remote towns across the country.
“Telehealth has not only helped to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, it has greatly improved flexibility for patients in accessing care.
“Telehealth consultations are particularly important in rural and remote areas where there can be limited access to essential healthcare services. These services have also proven to be valuable for providing healthcare to rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and could prove a great tool in closing the gap.”
“The RACGP has been closely consulting with the government on telehealth, and will continue to call for a long-term future for these services in Australia – for the benefit of patients, and the broader health system.”