Govt to consider patient to GP telehealth on MBS
The federal government has committed to considering an expansion of the Medicare Benefits Schedule for telehealth items this year, and has also promised to implement video consults for the after-hours GP Helpline and the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline.
As part of an update to its national digital economy strategy, released by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy at the Digital Productivity Conference in Brisbane today, the government said it plans to undertake a review this year to determine the costs and benefits of an expanded range of MBS telehealth items to include patients participating in video-based consultations with their GP.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recently called for GP to patient video conferences to be introduced to the MBS as an alternative to face-to-face consultations in its pre-election statement, arguing that telehealth services are beneficial particularly for patients with chronic diseases who have difficulty seeing their GP due to transport, mobility and distance issues.
The RACGP argued it would be a cost-neutral exercise as it would be an alternative to in-person consults, not in addition to them.
The government's strategy document states that the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will lead a review to determine the costs and benefits of expanding the range of MBS telehealth items to include GP to patient video consults.
It says "the review will ensure that any expansion in telehealth items will target the delivery of services to improve health outcomes and equity, see that consultations are practised in a safe and clinically effective manner, and be a cost effective use of government resources".
Senator Conroy also announced that the government would implement video consultations for the after-hours GP Helpline and the 24-hour Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline in the second half of 2013.
The baby helpline is run by Healthdirect Australia on behalf of DoHA, as is the after-hours GP Helpline, which is triaged by nurses. Healthdirect Australia is funded by the Commonwealth and the states and territories.
The government also said it plans to increase the use of digital platforms to provide aged care services, including expanding the Community Visitors Scheme into home care through the use of technology.
It also promises a boost to the Keeping Seniors Connected program, which provides free access to technology and training on cybersecurity and cybersafety to seniors.
Posted in Australian eHealth