The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the Federal Government today announcing new Medicare patient rebates for extended telephone consultations for patients in COVID-19 hotspots.
At a press conference today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government would provide Medicare patient rebates to support patients in all Commonwealth declared COVID-19 hotspots with access to longer telephone consultations. These services will be restored for those in Greater Sydney, a COVID-19 hotspot, effective from tomorrow.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said extended telephone consultations were needed more than ever.
“This is very welcome news – it will make a real difference in ensuring access to care for patients in hotspots,” she said.
“With an extended lockdown in Greater Sydney and COVID-19 cases in other states, we need this more than ever.
“We know from experience that patients tend to avoid care during lockdowns and outbreaks, particularly those who are vulnerable. This leads to worsening health conditions and a greater burden on our already overloaded hospitals down the track.”
“And I know from my own practice that many patients are either not comfortable accessing video consultations or are unable to do so, particularly those who are older or economically disadvantaged.
“The RACGP has long expressed the importance of telephone consultations as part of the telehealth mix, and this is welcome recognition of its value for patients.
“Anecdotally, patients have expressed relief at being able to contact their usual GP for care during such a stressful time. With a move to e-prescriptions this is really enhancing the modern version of continuity of care and is progressive policy responding to the needs of the community.”
The RACGP President said she looked forward to working with the Government on long-term telehealth solutions.
“Telehealth has been embraced by GPs and patients alike and has proven to be a valuable complement to face-to-face care,” she said.
“The evidence shows it’s convenient for patients, is appropriate for a variety of consultations and it enhances access to care.
“RACGP advocacy saw telehealth introduced in a matter of months, rather than the years it might have taken without a pandemic.
“As a GP myself, I see the value of telehealth and how it enhances care every day. And I look forward to continuing discussions with the Government to find a long-term solution for telehealth – because I know what it can do for patients.”
As part of the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government extended Medicare patient rebates for telehealth services until the end of the year.