COVID-19 UPDATES

Our COVID-19 page has important information and updates for our members.

Our COVID-19 advocacy

The AACP advocates strongly for our members during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes having access to Telehealth items that meet our members needs and allows them to continue to provide quality healthcare to their patients during the pandemic.

Telehealth Changes coming 1 July 2022 – Most telephone consultations cease

As previously advised, the former Government had determined that the existing telehealth arrangements would not extend beyond 30 June 2022, with the planned retention of video items, but the cessation of all but one of the telephone telehealth items for use by consultant physicians and paediatricians.

The AACP together with a number of other major professional associations as well as patient groups have been advocating strongly for the retention of all telephone telehealth items, given their value in delivering medical care to Australian patients.

We understand that while this matter was considered at length between the Minister, the Department of Health and lastly by the Expenditure Review Committee – as announced by the Minister only on the afternoon of 30 June – the decision has been taken that access to the consultant physician/paediatrician telephone items (except item 119) will cease from 1 July 2022 as previously announced by the Morrison Government.

Clearly this is a very disappointing decision for consultant physicians, paediatricians and patients given that the appropriate use of telephone for consultations has been widely welcomed and adopted by both clinicians and patients.

The new Government has taken decisions to end a number of “pandemic funding initiatives” however the implementation of telephone consultations represented a positive change in the way medical care is delivered and there was a reasonable expectation was that these items would become permanent.

There are already discussions underway about further action to be taken to seek a change to this decision. We will keep you updated.

Read AACP Media Release

MBS Telehealth & Telephone items

Following are updates on changes by the Government to the MBS Telehealth video and telephone items.

The Department of Health has confirmed the telehealth services for initial and subsequent attendances that will be permanently rebated through the MBS where delivered by videoconference, and minor attendances that will be permanently rebated when delivered by telephone or videoconference.

Information on the permanent telehealth items is available in the new MBS Fact Sheet (see highlighted sections) –

MBS rebates for consultations by phone (item 119) will continue to be available.

The Government has indicated it intends to defer to 1 October 2022 the implementation of the telephone specific 30/20 compliance rule which was to take effect on 1 July 2022.

MBS Factsheet

MBS Telehealth & Telephone items – REINSTATEMENT OF ALL TELEHEALTH ITEMS

The AACP has welcomed the reinstatement of the full suite of Telehealth MBS items for consultant physician and consultant paediatrician consultations up to 30 June 2022.

On 17 December 2021 the Minister for Health announced that while Telehealth would become permanent and be available for all medical conditions (i.e. not just in relation to COVID-19), almost all MBS items for telephone services would cease on 31 December 2021. However, advocacy by the AACP and other medical organisations has now resulted in reinstatement of ALL Telehealth (video/telephone) items, at least up to 30 June 2022, including the items that enable specialist medical practitioners to provide Telehealth consultations to hospital in-patients when their doctor cannot attend the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The AACP will continue to strongly advocate for ongoing access to both video and telephone Medicare items beyond 30 June given the acceptance of Telehealth by patients and the importance of Telehealth (particularly telephone services) in meeting a critical medical need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AACP’s position is that the removal of telephone services from the Telehealth arrangements is not justified at this time given: (a) there is no long term data on their use to form a sustainable long term policy, (b) importantly, that there was no certainty about the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response of patients and how varying isolation requirements would affect the ability of clinicians to deliver services, and (c) that there clearly had been an element of previously unmet need in terms of use of telephone consultations for patients of consultant physicians and paediatricians who have difficulty in accessing face-to-face services. The AACP does not believe that financial imperatives should be determining restrictions on patient access to essential Telehealth services.

The list of Telehealth MBS items issued by the Department of Health on 16 January 2022 is available here.

Referral

In relation to the requirement for referrals, the DoH has advised:

All MBS items for referred attendances require a valid referral.  Existing patients with a valid referral do not require a new referral for the purposes of claiming the a Telehealth MBS items.  If a patient requires follow-up and has previously been seen under a referral that is still valid, there is no need to obtain a specific referral for the purposes of claiming the Telehealth items subsequent attendance items. 


Provider Numbers

If a practitioner is required to self-isolate because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or because of a requirement to self-isolate in accordance with guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC), they should use the provider number for their primary location, and must provide safe services in accordance with normal professional standards and privacy laws.

Where to find further information on COVID-19

The COVID-19 situation is evolving, and advice is being regularly updated by the Australian Government and state and territory health departments. Following are links for further information.

AACP updates on COVID-19

The AACP, along with some of its members, has developed some suggestions and tips for those who may have less experience with telehealth consultations.

Member Only Content:
A PDF that sets out these tips can be found inside the Member Portal.  LOG IN

Updates on changes relating to COVID-19 impacting our members are sent via our e-news. To access these visit our Member Newsletter page.

Following are the AACP’s news items relating to COVID-19 and the MBS. These are also found on our News page.