Expand telehealth services to improve access to specialist medical care

iStock-801249656The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is calling for the Federal Government to allocate funding to expand telehealth consultations to patients living in urban areas.

Currently, telehealth services are only available if a patient is required to travel more than 15 km to attend a specialist appointment.

The RACP’s pre-budget submission recommends the Federal Government remove the distance requirement from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items supporting specialist telehealth consultations and improve access for patients living in cities and towns.  

Commenting on the RACP’s recommendations for telehealth funding, RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said: 

“Telehealth or video consultations are proving to be immensely successful in rural and remote areas and mean patients don’t need to travel long distances to attend medical appointments. 

“Geographic disparity is one reason to use telehealth but there are other good reasons for patients and specialists to have access to this technology if they are within a 15 km radius.

“If a patient is older and frail and for people with limited mobility, travelling to a hospital-based appointment may be very difficult.

“For people with young children who have care responsibilities or those with work commitments, attending appointments in person can be challenging. Telehealth has the benefit of minimising disruption for these patients and supports their access to specialist care.

“We encourage the Federal Government to remove the MBS restrictions and allocate funding in its next Budget to support states and territories to expand telehealth technology and improve patient access to specialist care for patients, regardless of where they live.”

Medicare specialist telehealth service consultations have increased by 33 per cent between June 2015 to June 2017 (MBS Online August 2017).

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