#188 Changes to Medicare-funded telehealth services


22 July 2020

Changes to telehealth services have come into effect which limit COVID-19 Medicare telehealth items to where a patient has an existing relationship with a GP, with notable exceptions. This relationship is defined as the patient having had at least one face-to-face in-person consultation in the previous 12 months with the GP, or with another GP at the same practice.

These changes, which the AMA strongly advocated for, are designed to ensure appropriate access to Medicare-funded telehealth services. While the great majority of GP telehealth consultations to date have been in circumstances where a patient has an existing relationship with a GP, there has been an increasing and disturbing emergence of ‘pop-up’ telehealth services and models that are linked to pharmacies. These changes put paid to such models. 

There are, however, a number of exemptions to the requirement to have an existing relationship with a GP to access COVID-19 Medicare GP telehealth items, including treating children under 12 months, or where a patient is homeless. 

Most notably, this requirement will also not apply in areas under Stage Three restrictions in Victoria (metro Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire).

COVID-19 Medicare telehealth items are currently still due to end on September 30. However, the AMA will continue to have constructive discussions with the Federal Government over further refinements that can support the broad retention of telehealth beyond this date.

If you require more information or further clarification on changes to Medicare-funded telehealth services, please contact Communications and Advocacy Officer, Lewis Horton at LewisH@amavic.com.au.

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