Telehealth Information

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HealthDirect Video Call - you can find out more and sign up for our Healthdirect Video Call platform here.


From 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 (inclusive), new temporary MBS telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community  transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.

 

Other Resources

COVID-19 Telehealth Information FAQs

What is the difference between telehealth and phone consultations?

In simple terms, telehealth describes audio and visual (like a video-conference) while a phone consultation only has the audio. There are benefits and challenges with both approaches, but the biggest benefit with telehealth is that you can see the patient and pick up on a lot of non-verbal information.

For some practices, phone consults will be more appropriate and safer for the patient and practitioner. Many of the principles behind getting set up to use telehealth are the same for phone consults. Check out our Becoming Telehealth Enabled - Checklist to help you get started.

What telehealth platform should I use?

There is no single mandated platform that practices have to use. Practices can choose from a number of platforms, including: Practices must ensure that the telehealth platform used meets requirements for confidentiality and privacy.

HealthDirect is currently providing free acess to its telehealth service, Video Call, through WAPHA. You can register to use Video Call using the form here.

My practice is moving to telehealth, what do we need to think about?

A comprehensive guide is available from the Australasian Telehealth Society here and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has a telehealth guide available here. To get you started, below are some questions you and your practice can start with:
  • What platform you will use for the consultations?
  • How the practice will manage booking telehealth appointments?
  • How will you determine which patients are suitable for a telehealth appointment?
  • How you will access your practice’s clinical information system, so that you have access to the patient’s records and document the consultation appropriately?
  • Have you informed our Medical Indemnity Insurance Provider?
  • How will you verify the identity of the patient?
  • How will you obtain consent from the patient & protect their privacy?
  • How will you keep appropriate records?
  • How will we provide prescriptions or pathology request forms (if required)?

What documentation do I need to keep for telehealth or phone consults?

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners advises that GPs should adhere to the same record-keeping standards as for physical health consultations and include additional information such as:
  • that the consultation was conducted by videoconference (with the patient’s consent)
  • the patient-end location of the video consultation
  • who was present (other than the GP and distant specialist) and the patient’s consent for such parties to be present
  • the rationale for a video consultation instead of a physical consultation
  • which clinician is responsible for which specified follow-up actions
  • the recording of any still or moving images during the video consultation, the patient’s written consent for such recording and the location of the recording as part of the patient’s health record (whether stored by the practice or a third party)
  • any period of time a support clinician was not present at the patient end (eg to allow the patient to have a private discussion with the specialist)
  • any technical malfunctions during the videoconference (eg poor sound or image) that may have compromised the safety or quality of the video consultation.
RACGP also advises to write up the notes as soon after the consultation as possible. This will facilitate safe and effective continuity of care for the patient.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has a telehealth guide available here.
 

What do I need to think about in terms of patient privacy and confidentiality?

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners advises that information security and privacy considerations in relation to telehealth video consultations include:
  • the security of the videoconferencing interface (software and hardware)
  • security of patient information (encryption and use of secure messaging)
  • storage of any video recordings and still images
  • the visual and audio privacy of the practice’s teleconferencing room.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has a telehealth guide available here.
 

I work at a primary care or allied health service, but not a general practice, and I want to use telehealth. How can I get started?

The principles of providing a telehealth service in general practice and other primary care services are essentially the same. A comprehensive guide is available from the Australasian Telehealth Society here. To get you started, below are some questions you and your practice can start with:
  • What platform you will use for the consultations?
  • How the service manage booking telehealth appointments?
  • How will you determine which patients are suitable for a telehealth appointment?
  • How you will access your clinical information system, so that you have access to the patient’s records and document the consultation appropriately?
  • Have we informed our Medical Indemnity Insurance Provider?
  • How will we verify the identity of the patient?
  • How will we obtain consent from the patient & protect their privacy?
  • How will we keep appropriate records?
  • How will we provide prescriptions or pathology request forms (if required)?
You might also find the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners telehealth guide useful. It can be accessed here.

For some allied health providers, there are temporary MBS items available for focused psychological strategies. For more information, check out our MBS COVID-19 Telehealth Services Mental Health fact sheet or visit MBS online: http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/Factsheet-TempBB.

MBS Telehealth Services

From 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 (inclusive), new temporary MBS telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.


Note: This information is general in nature. It is ultimately the responsibility of treating practitioners to use their professional judgment to determine the most clinically appropriate services to provide, and then to ensure that any services billed to Medicare fully meet the eligibility requirements outlined in the legislation.
 

Fact Sheets

Quick Guides

Other Resources

COVID-19 MBS Telehealth Services FAQs

What MBS items are available for COVID-19?

The Australian Department of Health has made temporary telehealth and phone consultations available for General Practitioners, Other Medical Practitioners, Nurse Practitioners, Specialists, practice nurses, midwives and eligible Allied Health Practitioners.

Read our summary fact sheets and quick guides above for more information.

What are the eligibility criteria for using these items?

The temporary telehealth and phone COVID-19 MBS items can be used for all patients. However, the service must meet the definition of a telehealth attendance or phone attendance (check the definitions below).

General Practitioners and Other Medical Practitioners must bulk bill these items for patients with a concession card, patients vulnerable to COVID-19 or a child under 16 at the time the service is provided. The bulk billing incentive has also been doubled for these patients.

You must also ensure that you are claiming the items correctly by checking the full item descriptions available from http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/Home.

What is the Medicare definition of a telehealth and phone attendance?

  • telehealth attendance means a professional attendance by video conference where the health practitioner:
       - has the capacity to provide the full service through this means safely and in accordance with professional standards; and
       - is satisfied that it is clinically appropriate to provide the service to the patient; and
       - maintains a visual and audio link with the patient; and
       - is satisfied that the software and hardware used to deliver the service meets the applicable laws for security and privacy.
 
  • phone attendance means a professional attendance by telephone where the health practitioner:
       - has the capacity to provide the full service through this means safely and in accordance with professional standards; and
       - is satisfied that it is clinically appropriate to provide the service to the patient; and
       - maintains an audio link with the patient.

Is there an item for a preparing a Mental Health Treatment Plan or GP Management Plan via phone or telehealth?

Yes. Changes to the items on 30 March mean that now GPs and Medical Practitioners can now use the temporary COVID-19 MBS telehealth and phone items for preparing a Mental health Treatment Plan.  Check out our fact sheet  MBS COVID-19 Telehealth Services Mental Health.  

Do I need a new Provider Number if I am providing telehealth from home?

The Australian Department of Health advises that you should use the provider number for your primary location.

Are there any additional after-hours MBS items for COVID?

Yes. Changes to the items on 30 March mean that now GPs and Medical Practitioners can now use the temporary COVID-19 MBS telehealth and phone items for urgent care provided in unsociable after hours (11pm-7am).  Check out our fact sheet MBS COVID-19 Telehealth Services Quick Guide GPs  for more information.
 

Do I have to bulk bill the COVID-19 MBS items?

Yes, General Practitioners and Other Medical Practitioners must bulk bill the temporary COVID-19 items for Commonwealth concession card holders, children under 16 years old and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. A patient who is more vulnerable to COVID-19 is defined as a person who:
  • is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine in accordance with guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in relation to COVID-19; or
  • is at least 70 years old; or
  • if the person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent—is at least 50 years old; or
  • is pregnant; or
  • is the parent of a child aged under 12 months; or
  • is being treated for a chronic health condition; or
  • is immune compromised; or
  • meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.
For all other patients, providers can apply their usual billing practices. Providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to providing the service; providing details regarding their fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.

For patients who are a Commonwealth concession card holder, are more vulnerable to COVID-19 or for children under 16 years old the bulk billing incentive has also been doubled.

From 20 April 2020, allied health practitioners and Specialists are no longer required to bulk bill the temporary COVID-19 MBS items.

Are there telehealth or phone items available for our practice nurse?

Yes. As of 20 April 2020, there are now items available for practice nurses. These items are equivalent to the existing face-to-face items (10987 and 10997).

Read more about these items in our Nursing and Allied Health Quick Guide.
For further information around changes to the PIP QI incentive  inline with COVID-19 please visit the PIP QI Tool Kit page.


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