In a major boost for primary health care, the Australian Government is further strengthening telehealth arrangements as recommended by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and other medical experts.
Under stage seven of telehealth reforms announced today, Medicare-subsidised telehealth services, introduced as a key part of the COVID-19 response, will now promote patients receiving continuous care from a patient’s regular GP or medical practice.
From July 20, Telehealth GP providers will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide telehealth services.
This will ensure patients continue to receive quality, ongoing care from a GP who knows their medical history and needs.
A relationship is defined as the patient having seen the same practitioner for a face-to-face service in the last 12 months, or having seen a doctor at the same practice for a face-to-face service during the same period.
In areas under stage three restrictions in Victoria, this requirement will not apply to those living under new restrictions in Victoria.
It will also exempt people under the age of 12 months or people who are experiencing homelessness. They will be able to have access to any provider. Our Government will closely monitor the impact of these exemptions and will consider further exemptions as necessary.
Requiring COVID-19 video and telephone services are linked to a patient’s usual GP or practice will support longitudinal, person-centred primary health care, associated with better health outcomes.
This change responds to advice from medical experts, such as the AMA and RACGP, and recognises that with restrictions now being lifted in many parts of Australia, it is important for patients to continue seeing their regular doctor.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the central importance of primary care to people’s lives and the Australian health system.
Telehealth has been enthusiastically accepted by doctors and patients alike. I hope and intend for telehealth to be a positive legacy of this crisis and am already engaged with the medical community in planning a long-term future for telehealth.