Telehealth

Telehealth is an increasingly important alternative to face-to-face consultation.

An older patient talking to their GP using a laptop.Telehealth consultations are any consultations between clinicians and patients using telephone or video. Potential benefits include improved access to health care, reduced costs and enhanced continuity of care.

Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items

MBS items for telehealth were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been extended to 31 December 2021.

The COVID-19 Telehealth MBS items allow provision of service using either telephone or videoconferencing and can be claimed when a telehealth consultation takes place between a patient and their usual GP.

GPs are no longer required to bulk bill telehealth services for any patients.

See the COVID-19 temporary MBS telehealth services webpage and the Australian Department of Health’s COVID-19 telehealth MBS items guide.

Also see the Australian Department of Health website and MBS Online for all the items and the latest information.

Telehealth decision support tool

A decision tool is available to help clinicians and consumers decide together when telehealth is a safe and effective option for care. The tool was developed in partnership between the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and clinical experts and is suitable for all primary health care providers. It is available on the Safer Care Victoria website.

Things to consider

  • Interpreting service for telehealth

    The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) has launched a new booking system for telehealth video interpreting services. This is in response to growing demand for telehealth consultations by patients who speak languages other than English.

  • Privacy

    Information security and privacy considerations in relation to telehealth consultations include:

    • the security of the videoconferencing interface (software and hardware)
    • the 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 Department of Health’s checklist helps practices comply with privacy obligations when delivering telehealth services. It provides high-level privacy guidance only and should not be relied on as a substitute for your own legal or other professional advice.

Getting connected

Videoconferencing is the preferred substitute for face-to-face consultation. Before COVID-19, certain MBS telehealth items were available for videoconferencing services only, but providers can now offer audio-only services via telephone if video is not available. Note that there are separate items for audio-only services.

No specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services. One option is Healthdirect Video Call, a free platform developed in Australia specifically for patient consultation.

You could also use widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo and GoToMeeting. (Note that free versions of these applications may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy. Practitioners must ensure that their means of telecommunication meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.)

Healthdirect Video Call

Healthdirect Video Call is an easy-to-use telehealth platform. Funded by the Australian Government, it is free for all GPs, Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations until 31 December 2021.

Healthdirect Video Call allows health care services using telehealth to provide a single, consistent entry point on their website. Patients simply click a link to enter an online waiting room for their appointment. Patients do not need an account, special software or dial-in details, which reduces the need for extra resources or systems to support video consulting.

The Healthdirect Video Call webpage explains how the system works.

Also visit our tenders and EOI page for more information or to access Healthdirect registration forms.