Digital & Innovation

Government announces last minute delay to telehealth rules

Health Industry Hub | July 1, 2022 |
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Digital & Innovation: From today July 1, general practitioners were supposed to have restrictions imposed to telehealth consultations but a last minute deferral was announced last night after weeks of lobbying by general practitioners.

Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said last night at a press conference at Parliament House “I am deferring the compliance arrangements that were due to take effect tomorrow. Those compliance arrangements were essentially based upon a particular ratio of telehealth consultations as a part of, particularly, a GP’s day. I don’t think it’s appropriate that those compliance measures start tomorrow, as the former government had decided they would, given what GPs and patients are dealing with right now. And so, given the level of respiratory illness in the community, more and more people, more and more GPs for that matter, are choosing to have consults conducted virtually, and I don’t want GPs punished for that.

“I’ve decided to defer that for three months. I think it is important to have good compliance or quality control measures in place for telehealth. I think broadly people accept that. I don’t think it’s a good idea to drop it in the middle of the winter that we’re experiencing right now. Obviously, depending on where we are at the end of September, if there’s good reason to defer that again, I’ll look at that. “

This decision comes following Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Vice President Dr Bruce Willett writing to the Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, strongly recommending that the telehealth rules are delayed until a comprehensive review has been undertaken to ensure the rules are fit for purpose and don’t negatively impact general practice care.

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Medical professionals have been concerned that the winding back of telehealth across Australia will have a flow on effect, with emergency rooms and hospitals likely to pick up the burden. It also disproportionately affects people living in regional and rural areas who have challenges in seeing a doctor close to home.

Breast Cancer Network Australia chief executive Kirsten Pilatti said telehealth offered an excellent solution for people requiring a quick consultation or unable to travel, but was not without shortfalls.

“People are being told they’ve got breast cancer over the phone again, which is completely unacceptable from our perspective,” she said.

“There’s definitely a role for it to play. We want it to be extended, but we want consumers to be part [of] and drive the solution of the guidelines in place for telehealth so that it’s used for good.”

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price, said “Now is not the time to impose new telehealth rules on general practice. GPs and general practice teams have a lot on their plate, and we are doing all we can to keep our heads above water. High rates of community transmission of COVID-19 and the flu and other viruses mean that many patients are still accessing care via telehealth and many patients, particularly those not confident using video technology, prefer consults via telephone.”

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