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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says subsidised telehealth services introduced during the coronavirus pandemic should continue to be funded through Medicare.

The Federal Government expanded Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians in March to limit unnecessary exposure of patients and health professionals to the virus whenever treatment could be safely delivered over the phone or online.

Mr Chester said appointments using video or telephone calls had benefitted many people, particularly those for whom travelling to appointments was difficult.

“It is well-known that people in regional and rural areas have poorer health outcomes than people living in the city,” Mr Chester said. “One barrier to good health that many face is trouble accessing services.

“Telehealth has been a valuable tool in our country’s fight against the coronavirus and many patients have valued the convenience and savings in time and money that it has brought.

“There is a place for subsidised telehealth services. I hope continued government support for these services will be a positive, ongoing legacy of the pandemic.”

The Federal Government is monitoring the implementation of the new telehealth Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) items.

Since mid-March, 16.13 million telehealth services have been delivered to 7.48 million patients around Australia, with $833.1 million paid in benefits. More than 72,500 providers have used telehealth services.

Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt has been working with the medical community and other key participants in planning a long-term future for telehealth.

Before the pandemic, the Federal Government had been working with GPs and GP groups on longer term arrangements for telehealth through the development of the Primary Care Plan, and to implement recommendations of the MBS Review Taskforce. This is continuing.

Clinical efficacy and safety, patients’ and providers’ experiences, and assessment of quality and value of services will be considered.

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