Physicians welcome decision to reinstate telehealth items for specialist care

17 January 2022 

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed the decision by the Federal Government to reinstate a range of telehealth items so that patients across Australia can regain access to specialist care via phone.

The College is calling on the Federal Government to commit to making these items a permanent feature of the healthcare system. This will ensure Australians can continue to access specialist care via telephone – particularly those in priority populations, such as the elderly, and those living in regional and remote locations where specialists access can be limited. This system works to address some long-standing issues with specialist access, so we need to retain it.

RACP President Professor John Wilson says, “We’re pleased to see the Federal Government reinstate these telehealth items for specialists.

“Telehealth has been a total game-changer for ensuring equitable access to specialist care.

“Physicians want to see these MBS items retained beyond 30 June so that their patients can continue to access specialist care.

“Telephone-based telehealth is important in improving healthcare access for the elderly, those with less advanced technical knowledge, some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, some people living with disability, and people in rural and remote locations.

“We commend the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt MP, for listening to the concerns of physicians and reinstating these important MBS items.

“We are especially pleased that telephone items will continue to be available for initial as well as complex consultations, and that telehealth rebates are available for inpatients to receive a consultation with their specialist. Complex consultations via telephone are extremely important for specialist physicians who often see patients when they have multiple conditions that requires more complex care.

“The reinstatement of telephone items for the next six months is important, especially under the surging COVID 19 pandemic conditions - patients will be able to safely communicate with their specialists again in circumstances where face-to-face consultation isn’t feasible or available, or forgo care altogether.

“Now we call on the Government to embed these items longer-term into our healthcare system so that patients across Australia can continue to experience equitable access to specialist care.

“The reality is that many patients will continue to need specialist care via phone-based telehealth well beyond mid-2022, and we need the Government to pave the way for this.

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