Continuity of care and patient-first principles behind government changes to MBS Telehealth

The Australia Federal Government has announced further changes to MBS (Medicare Benefits Schedule) subsidised telehealth to focus on continuity of primary care.

Earlier this year, MBS subsidised telehealth consultations were rolled out rapidly across the country as a response to the unfolding pandemic. The COVID-19 Telehealth implementation has been largely successful in ensuring access to health and well-being care during a challenging time. The scheme had been slated to end in September. These new developments signal the potential for telehealth to become a part of the health and well-being landscape into the future.

Under the new arrangements, patients can continue to access the MBS telehealth subsidy if they have an existing relationship with the GP (have seen the GP face-to-face at least once in the prior 12 months). This ensures the patient receives ongoing quality care from a GP who knows their medical history and needs.

The Australian Government worked with the RACGP and AMA to develop these changes. Requiring telehealth to be linked to a patient’s ongoing relationship with their healthcare provider supports person-centred care, associated with both better health outcomes and better frameworks for healthcare providers.

This approach is echoed in the model of GPNow. GPNow is a high-definition, low-bandwidth dedicated telehealth and telecare solution designed specifically to connect and protect patient and practitioner connections. The platform has been purpose built to support “patient-centric” ecosystems and services as the telehealth revolution evolves during and post COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctor writing notes

GPNow CEO Robert Hicken said, “We welcome this announcement from the Government. We think it is crucial that all players in the ecosystem work together to create services which focus on the patient and deliver outstanding quality of care. We are focussed on building solutions which endure and contribute to the advancement of our industry in the years ahead.

“While much attention has been placed on telehealth in recent months, at GPNow we have been working in this space for years and our focus has always been on technology that protects and advances the ‘carer relationship’. Our GPNow platform protects the patient-doctor trusted relationships by offering qualified connections safely and securely, anyway, anytime.”

“GPNow facilitates telecare by allowing doctors and carers to leverage existing patient management systems and services AND provide additional to value-added services such as decision support at “point-of-care”.

In his official statement, Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, said, “Telehealth has been enthusiastically accepted by doctors and patients alike. I hope and intend for telehealth to be a positive legacy of this crisis and am already engaged with the medical community in planning a long-term future for telehealth.”

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