Telehealth on Medicare in Australia

Patients in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas around Australia will benefit from an increase in telehealth services with greater access to Medicare funded medical specialist video consultations available starting July 1, 2011.

Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said that under the Gillard Government’s A$620 million ($664 million) telehealth initiative, patients will be able to ‘see’ their specialist close to home without the time and expense of travelling to major cities.

“Improving access to specialist healthcare close to home is a key priority for the Gillard Government and Medicare funded telehealth services will remove distance and cost as a barrier,” Roxon said. “Telehealth is going to provide huge benefits to patients in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas but also to health practitioners who, from July 1, will be able to access increased Medicare rebates for telehealth services.

According to Roxon, new Medicare items will allow a range of existing consultation services to be provided via video conferencing and additional rebates on top of these items recognize the increased complexity of providing a service to a remote patient. There will be a 50% additional rebate for the specialist service and a 35% additional rebate for the service provided by the practitioner at the patient end.

“We recognize the time, complexity and administration involved in telehealth services so rebates will now also be available for the health professional located with the patient including GPs, nurse practitioners, midwives, practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers,” Roxon said.

The new Medicare items have been developed through intensive collaboration with stakeholders including peak medical colleges and associations.

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