RACGP urges action on telehealth

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the federal Government to address some of the issues which have surfaced since the rollout and expansion of telehealth services in Australia.

It comes via the RACGP’s submission to the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) audit of the expansion of telehealth services.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that telehealth is beneficial to many patients but that several issues need to be urgently addressed.

“The swift introduction of patient rebates for Medicare Benefits Schedule telehealth services in general practice was welcome and long overdue,” she said.

“GPs and patients across Australia embraced telehealth when the new patient rebates were first introduced in March 2020 and for good reason – it’s a popular form of service delivery that helps many patients access the care they need from their usual GP, when they need it.

“While we acknowledge the Department of Health’s willingness to engage the RACGP around telehealth over the past two years, there are several challenges the new Government must face head on. Abrupt and constant changes to Medicare item numbers, descriptors and interpretation have resulted in widespread confusion and an unprecedented amount of administrative work for practice teams across Australia. The Government can help relieve this burden by removing separate Medicare Benefits Schedule items that differentiate between telephone and video consults and merge these items into general telehealth item numbers.

“The Government should also ensure that patients with complex needs can access the care they require by making longer telephone consultations a permanent fixture of telehealth. This is a no-brainer considering that in 2020-21

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