COVID-19 MBS items and telehealth
The Australian Federal Government unveiled a new multi-billion-dollar COVID-19 health package on 11 March 2020. Part of the package included new MBS item numbers, that were made available from 13 March 2020 to allow consultations with COVID-19 affected or high-risk patients by phone or video. The list of telehealth services has continued to expand since 13 March. The Department of Health also put a Special Arrangement in place on 26 March to make it easier for self-isolating patients to access prescription medicines, something that can be organised during a telehealth consult - details can be found at the bottom of this page.
Updates since the initial announcement
- 10 July - The Australian Government announced the strengthening of telehealth arrangements as recommended by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). From July 20, telehealth GP providers will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide Medicare-subsidised telehealth services.
- 20 April - Specialists and allied health providers are no longer required to bulk-bill COVID-19 telehealth (video conference) and telephone consultations where the service is provided to a concessional or vulnerable patient or a child under 16. A new bulk-billing incentive item is now available where a medical service is provided to a vulnerable patient - item 10982 mirrors the current item 10991 regional - and can be claimed with face-to-face attendances or with the new COVID-19 telehealth and telephone services. Twenty four new telehealth items are now available for specialists: six new items for consultant psychiatrists, eight new items for public health physicians and 10 new items for neurosurgeons. Four new telehealth items are now available for a practice nurse or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner.
- 6 April - Health providers can apply their usual billing practices to telehealth consultations. It is a legislative requirement that the new telehealth services must be bulk billed for Commonwealth concession card holders, children under 16 years old and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
- 6 April - 22 new MBS items have been introduced for telehealth and telephone services for consultant physicians, geriatricians and consultant psychiatrists.
- 29 March - whole of population telehealth, with extra incentives to GPs and other health practitioners. The new arrangements will be in place until 30 September 2020.
- 23 March - vulnerable health professionals who are currently authorised to use telehealth item numbers, can use telehealth for all consultations with their patients.
- 17 March - item 69485 may be claimed as a stand-alone test
- 16 March - item numbers were expanded to include midwives and obstetricians
- Click here for the Department of Health's COVID-19 Telehealth Items Guide - 28 July
- Click here for the full list of MBS item numbers - 28 May
- Click here for fact sheets on the COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services - 20 July
- Click here for COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheet - 6 April
- Click here for the Australian Government's MBS changes factsheet - 30 March
- Click here for Bulk Billing Incentives: Australian Government Response to COVID-19 fact sheet - 7 April
- Click here for information on Telecare Australia, who is providing specialist care via telehealth - GPs can refer their patients, particularly rural and remote, aged care or Aboriginal medical service settings and click here for a quick view of the services available, contact details and the associated MBS telehealth items.
- Click here to learn about healthdirect's Video Call - a secure telehealth platform that uses high-quality encrypted video technology (WebRTC)
- Click here for a collection of telehealth resources we've compiled from HealthDirect, including a checklist
- Click here for information from HealthDirect on how to join a video call and see your patient
General practice resources
- Click here for a guideline we've developed which explains how you should plan to use video and phone consultations
- RACGP have more details on rebate amounts - click here for details
- RACGP have telehealth video consultations guide, templates and factsheets available here
The Department of Health put a Special Arrangement in place on 26 March to make it easier for self-isolating patients to access prescription medicines.
The Home Medicines Service complements the expanded use of telehealth under Medicare and the fast-tracking of electronic prescribing.
Under the special arrangement GPs will be required to:
- Create a paper prescription during a telehealth consultation (informing patients of the small, yet possible, privacy risk of sending prescriptions digitally). This will need to be signed as normal or using a valid digital signature.
- Create a clear copy of the entire prescription (a digital image such as a photo or PDF including the barcode where applicable).
- Send via email, fax or text message directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.
NB: *does not apply for a Schedule 8 or Schedule 4(D) medicine and paper prescriptions will be required to be kept for a period of 2 years for audit and compliance purposes.
GPs can request an authority using Online PBS Authorities in HPOS.
For more information:
- Primary Care Fast Track Electronic Prescribing factsheet - 12 March
- PBS News: Expansion of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Continued Dispensing Arrangements Covid-19 - 31 March
- Interim arrangements for prescriptions for supply of medicines: Supporting telehealth patients and healthcare professionals - a guide for prescribers - 2 April
- Primary Care – Home Medicines Services to support the response to COVID-19
- COVID-19 National Health Plan – Home Medicines Services information for consumers - 28 March