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Commencing 13 March 2020 and extending until 31 March 2021, temporary MBS telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.

The temporary MBS telehealth items are available to GPs, medical practitioners, specialists, consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, participating midwives, allied health providers and dental practitioners in the practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery.

A service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

The new temporary MBS telehealth items are for out-of-hospital patients.

It is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient (and have seen the patient within the 12-months prior). There are limited exemptions to this requirement.

GP and OMP COVID-19 telehealth services are eligible for MBS incentive payments when provided as bulk billed services to Commonwealth concession card holders and children under 16 years of age.

All providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to charging private fees for COVID-19 telehealth services.

The temporary GP and OMP bulk billing incentive items for patients who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and the temporary doubling of all Medicare bulk-billing incentive fees ceased as of 1 October 2020.

For further information, see the MBS Online information, or click on the links below:

Telehealth consultations are a new way of providing care for both primary health practitioners and patients.

To help our region prepare for the recent increase in telehealth appointments, Northern Queensland PHN has produced a guide to telehealth for the community.

From 10 December 2020 until 30 June 2022, new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items are available for care recipients in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). There are a range of items and support now available for General Practitioners and allied health professionals who provide care in RACFs for mental health, chronic disease management and physical therapy.  

Useful links

Healthdirect (free service)

To support the secure delivery of video-based telehealth, the Australian Government Department of Health is fully funding access to healthdirect Video Call for General Practitioners (GPs) in Australia until the end of March 2021 (in line with the temporary MBS telehealth items). This is separate to the current trial that is in place until June 2021.

Registrations for a healthdirect Video Call license are open via the online registration form.

Only one person from your practice should register – this will usually be the practice manager, but could be a GP or other administrative person.

Once the registration for your practice is processed, you will receive an email that provides access to your account and an easy-to-follow starter guide.

If you would like to familiarise yourself with the healthdirect Video Call environment, watch this video to find out how easy it is to use, or browse the Video Call Resource Centre.

healthdirect Video Call mirrors a physical visit to a GP, making it easy for patients, clinicians, and administrators. healthdirect Video Call safeguards privacy by leaving no digital footprint. Other video call platforms (such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook) store a recording of the call in a server which may put GPs at risk of breaching privacy legislation. Find out more about healthdirect Video Call privacy.

Also, see more about how healthdirect Video Call is different from traditional video conferencing platforms.

The eligibility for access to the Video Call Service Pilot remains consistent with the current pilot. The program provides Video Call licenses free of charge for use by non-GP type primary care services classed as mental health, aged care, maternity, Indigenous health, and allied health services, which includes:

  • paediatrics and child health
  • palliative medicine
  • psychiatry
  • chiropractors
  • diabetes educators
  • exercise physiologists
  • mental health workers
  • midwives
  • nurses
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and health workers
  • nurse practitioners
  • clinical psychologist
  • psychologist
  • occupational therapist
  • social worker
  • speech pathologist
  • physiotherapy.

The Australian Department of Health is currently reviewing the eligibility criteria for this program and if there are any changes to the program eligibility, healthdirect will communicate these changes to PHNs.

Your organisation can register for healthdirect Video Call (free till 30 June 2021) by emailing or you can complete the online registration form.

Video Call does not require your patients to sign up. They simply enter the virtual waiting area and the consultation by providing their first and last name and their phone number so you can easily confirm it is the correct patient. Patients can use a computer, a tablet, or their phone to participate in a Video Call.

With Video Call both clinicians and patients require only a computer, tablet, or smartphone and an internet connection.

You can access pre-recorded webinars, starter guide, and configuration information here.

Electronic prescribing

As part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan, electronic prescribing has been fast-tracked. Work to upgrade health care providers’ clinical software is underway – more information is available here.

Here are some useful resources to share with your networks, providing information on issues such as PBS claiming arrangements, supply of medicine to patients, signing for receipts of a prescription, repeats and existing prescriptions.

Useful Links

12 January 2022