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
- 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 full list of MBS item numbers - 29 March 2020
- Click here for COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheet - 6 April
- Click here for the Australian Government's MBS changes factsheet - 30 March 2020
- Click here for Bulk Billing Incentives: Australian Government Response to COVID-19 fact sheet - 7 April
- 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