RACGP calls for 75% rebate for telehealth consultations

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for the introduction of a new MBS rebate for the provision of telehealth consultations as well as an increase in the rebate and a coordination payment for GP attendances in residential aged care facilities.

As part of its 2015-16 pre-budget submission, the college has recommended a moratorium on the government's remaining 2014 budget measures, including the $5 cut to rebates and the freeze on indexation.

Before today's unsuccessful federal Liberal Party leadership spill, Health Minister Sussan Ley was still arguing that those who have the means to do so should pay more for medical care, continuing to promote the government's “modest $5 optional co-payment” proposal.

According to Fairfax Media report, however, in today's party room meeting Prime Minister Tony Abbott alluded to his time as health minister, where he learned that “doctors always win” in political battles.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) came out harder than the college today, with president Brian Owler calling on the Prime Minister to ditch the “disastrous” Medicare co-payment, the $5 cut and the indexation freeze.

“Doctors want to provide quality care to their patients and communities, and do not want the viability of their practices threatened,” Professor Owler said.

“The AMA held doctor forums in several states yesterday and the message from grassroots GPs was clear – the government must scrap its potentially destructive Medicare changes. All of them.”

The RACGP would like to see the government establish a GP health reform advisory group consisting of government, patient and GP representatives to ensure all parties have equal opportunity to advise on the future of primary healthcare through a formal mechanism.

It estimates this forum would need funding of $750,000 for one year, and would be charged with reviewing policy implications and providing advice to the government prior to decision making.

The college also wants to see changes to the MBS for telehealth services between GPs and patients by providing a rebate of 75 per cent of the scheduled fee for in person consultations. This would improve access to care for people in rural and remote areas and for people with limited mobility and restricted access to transport.

It also wants the 15km minimum distance requirement for GP, patient and specialist telehealth consultations introduced by the previous government to be lifted.

For aged care, it wants the government to address the financial disincentives for providing care in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) by increasing rebates for GP consultations.

In addition, it was to see the introduction of a GP coordination payment for each residential aged care patient to compensate GPs for work done outside of face-to-face consultations, as well as 'for and on behalf of' MBS items for practice nurses visiting RACFs on behalf of GPs.

The pre-budget submission also contains a number of proposals for home-based palliative care, rural and remote GP training for mental health services, and prioritising reforms for rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Comments   

# Terry Hannan 2015-02-10 11:56
What is concerning here is the recurring theme relating to "reimbursement" rather than the processes of care, costs, quality and outcomes. Telehealth at all levels is an important positive move in Primary Care and yes these events should be reimbursable.

One of the questions that needs to be asked is will this technology improve the "underuse, overuse and inappropriate use" of health resources through effective clinical decision making? [L. Leape. Five Years After To Err Is Human. What Have We Learned? JAMA. 2005;293:2384-2390]

Where does this technology fit into health care interoperabilit y in Australia so that data used to measure can be collected more efficiently and accurately?[Ash ish K. Jha, David C. Classen, M.DGetting Moving on Patient Safety — Harnessing Electronic Data for Safer Care..NEJM 365;19 NEJM.org 1756 November 10, 2011]
# Shelly Fletcher 2015-02-11 08:35
The Department of Social Services has funded nine sites nationwide, including Feros Care, to demonstrate if funding GPs to conduct virtual consults will improve patient care . The trial is planned to cease in 2017 and includes paying GPs Level A to D ($25.20, $44.50, $77.90 and $110.45). In the past year, Feros Care has conducted 139 Telehealth consults with GPs and established a fortnightly virtual clinic between Bay Centre Medical and Byron Bay Feros Care Village. This eliminates GPs travelling to the Village; yet ensures that residents are receiving responsive, regular and thorough care. The virtual connection has improved escalating care which traditionally involved an RN sending a fax or calling, requiring the GP to spend time responding without receiving funding. Thanks to the virtual connection the GP can be paid to see and speak directly to the Resident with a Registered Nurse; without leaving their Practice. The trial has improved clinical care but also enhanced social connections. The residents of Feros Care have the opportunity to participate in virtual multicultural chat clubs, tours of art galleries and game day (where residents from the three sites connect virtually to battle out Scattergories or Bingo).

For more information about the program please contact
Shelly Fletcher
eHealth and Primary Care Manager
E: shellyfletcher@feroscare.com.au
M: 0448410839

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