In another show of its support for telehealth, the Australian Government has announced an additional extension of universal telehealth services until December 31, with an investment of more than $114 million earmarked in the 2021-22 budget.
Funding for the temporary MBS telehealth services that were introduced at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, had been due to expire on June 30.
The extension means that GPs and allied health providers can continue to provide virtual medical appointments to their patients either via telephone or video conference until the end of the year.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said telehealth has played an important role in supporting Australians through the pandemic. Telehealth items were rapidly implemented at the start of the pandemic to ensure the primary care sector could continue to function and that Australians could continue to access important health services.
“The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home,” Mr Hunt said. “This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times.
“It is critical that Australians continue to look after their health and stay engaged with your primary care providers.”
From 13 March 2020 to 21 April 2021, more than 56 million COVID-19 MBS telehealth services have been delivered to 13.6 million patients, with $2.9 billion in Medicare benefits paid. More than 83,540 providers have used telehealth services.
The extension of Telehealth includes services for general practitioners, medical practitioners, specialists, consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, participating midwives, allied health providers and dental practitioners.
Mr Hunt said the government continues to work with peak bodies to co-design permanent post pandemic telehealth as part of broader primary care reforms to modernise Medicare and provide flexibility of access to primary and allied healthcare services.