COVID-19 Daily Life: Telehealth - accessing bulk billed medical care from your Doctor

COVID-19 (also called the coronavirus) is changing the way we all do things for the next few months, with social distancing and non-essential shut-downs our new normal. To help you move with the times, stay connected and keep entertained, the Digital Ready for Daily Life program has put together info, tips, tricks, hacks and how-to’s for all things digital in your daily life.

While distancing and isolation are both being recommended by Government and health experts, what does this mean for medical treatment with your GP or other allied health provider?

As at risk groups for COVID-19 include people with underlying health conditions and those over 65, keeping out of places like medical centres where sick people are congregating makes sense.

Telehealth means having health services like GP visits, mental health appointments and other health services delivered by phone or videocall to patients.

The Government has announced a Temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) items that will allow doctors, nurses, midwives and mental health professionals to deliver services via telehealth for the next six months, provided those services are bulk billed.

Telehealth services will be available to:

- people isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner or in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by the AHPPC;

- people who meet the testing guidelines for COVID-19;

- people aged over 70;

- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50;

- people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; and

- parents with new babies and women who are pregnant.

People in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 can see any eligible health provider under these new telehealth items. Patients in vulnerable groups can also see a health provider via telehealth for a non-COVID-19 matter if they have seen that provider, or another provider within the same practice, face-to-face at least once in the previous 12 months. Additional guides to these services for providers are available via MBS Online.

Where possible, many providers of medical and allied health services are moving their treatments for people who don’t meet the above criteria to non face to face contact and remote as part of the effort to control the spread of COVID-19 in the broader community. Before you make an appointment, call ahead and check if there is the availability to have your appointment using phone or video call, and whether it will be covered by Medicare under the temporary bulk billing schedule.