The uptake of telehealth on the North Coast during the COVID-19 crisis has been strong say health authorities.
The uptake of telehealth on the North Coast during the COVID-19 crisis has been strong say health authorities.

TELEHEALTH CHANGES: What you need to know

PATIENTS who have been making video and phone appointments with their GP will now have to prove they have an ‘existing and continuous’ relationship with a general practice or Aboriginal Medical Service to remain eligible for telehealth services.

As part of the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19 earlier this year, temporary telehealth items were introduced to the Medicare Benefits Schedule to ensure continued access to essential health services. Since March 30, patients have been able to access GP telehealth services for appointments that were general in nature and were not limited to the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19.

Healthy North Coast has been the local organisation delivering the Australian Government’s PHN program on the North Coast, and chief executive officer Julie Sturgess said they are optimistic about the longer-term availability of video and phone consultations.

Ms Sturgess said the region has seen a positive adoption of telehealth which has been a key element in maintaining continuity of care during times of physical distancing.

“Local clinicians and patients alike have been enthusiastic about the availability of appointments by video or phone. We are working with our local medical community as well as the government to explore what a longer term model of care looks like that includes ongoing telehealth options,” Ms Sturgess said.

“This latest change to the current temporary telehealth services is yet another benefit to having a regular GP or general practice that knows your medical history.

“If you’re an existing patient, you can still take advantage of video and phone appointments, so make sure you talk to your local GP.

“Now more than ever we need to remain vigilant about COVID-19. If you’re experiencing even mild symptoms, make sure you call your GP to find out about testing options.”

MBS-rebated telehealth services from your regular GP are currently available until September 30, 2020.

Patients under 12 months and those experiencing homelessness are exempt from these changes and will be able to continue to access telehealth services from any provider without having to be an existing patient.