29 January 2024

Registrations for ACRRM’s Telehealth Clinical Skills Program 2024 are now open.

The online educational course is designed to equip GPs with the essential skills for best practice telehealth consultations.

GPs will learn from rural GPs experienced in telehealth consultations across various clinical settings.

You will earn 6 CPD hours.

Focus areas will include clinical skills for assessment and physical examination, consultation setup, physical assessments, legal aspects, note-taking, and the use of adjunctive devices for previously challenging body parts in virtual care.

Register by selecting your preferred online workshop date.

The program costs $195 for ACRRM members and $225 for non-members.

26 June 2023

Updated telehealth guidelines will close the gap which has sprung up between online prescribing business models and good medical practice.

After consulting the community and profession, the Medical Board of Australia has issued revised telehealth guidelines which will take effect on 1 September.

Under the updated guidelines:

  • Telehealth consultations will continue as an important feature of healthcare in Australia
  • Real-time doctor-patient consultations remain key to safe prescribing
  • Prescribing via questionnaire-based asynchronous web-based tools in the absence of a real-time patient-doctor consultation is not considered good practice
Download the new telehealth consultation guidelines Download the Medical Board media statement
10 May 2023

The strong focus on primary care, with the tripling of the bulk billing incentive and investment in the health workforce to better meet the health needs of the Australians in the 21st century, were among the welcome features of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Kristen Short, said there was little doubt primary care had been struggling in recent years, with fewer practices in a position to bulk bill, further highlighting the need for strong and ongoing funding commitment for the sector.

“The $3.5 billion committed to bulk billing incentives, $98.2 million for new Medicare rebates for patients who require consultations of longer than 60 minutes and $445.1 million to support team-based care in general practice, are welcome measures to support the revival and protection of a healthcare system which has served us well for decades,” she said.

Other investments of interest to primary care, in particular general practices in South Western Sydney include:

  • $358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics
  • $143.9 million for after hours primary care
  • $91.5 million to improve mental health by addressing workforce shortages

Ms Short said SWSPHN had a particular focus on innovative projects like iRAD, the New to General Practice Nursing program and My Care Partners to build capacity and support our general practices in delivering accessible, effective and timely care to our community.

She noted investment in digital health ($951.2 million); increasing the number of nurses in primary care ($10.7 million); and increasing incentives for general practices to employ a range of health professionals to provide team-based primary care ($445.1 million) would support those projects which were already improving the health of our region.

“Primary care is the cornerstone of our healthcare system, and SWSPHN looks forward to continuing to work with and support primary care providers across our region on the projects, services and other activities funded in this budget.

“We particularly welcome the focus in the budget on multidisciplinary team care and voluntary patient enrolment and look forward to seeing how it complements our local medical neighbourhood model of care, My Care Partners, which has been working for the past two years to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and enhance care coordination for people with multiple chronic diseases.”

17 November 2022

The Australian Digital Health Agency has provided a resources and events update.

Highlights in this edition include:

  • Digital health – test your knowledge of electronic prescriptions
  • New My Health Record in Community Health eLearning module
  • New education sessions on:
    • Community Health Digital Health Foundations Series
    • Digital Health Foundations Series
    • Emergency Access
    • My Health Record for Health Workers – Series 1
    • Pharmacy Technicians and Assistants – getting to know Electronic Prescriptions and the Active Script List
    • Practice Managers – getting to know Electronic Prescriptions and the Active Script List
    • What you need to know about Assisted Registration

Download the update

14 March 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the introduction of additional funding to improve access to telehealth services via general practice and other health services, to reduce transmission of the virus.

Two years on, many GPs are now also using electronic prescribing to complement their telehealth services.

In the past, a patient had to visit a GP to receive a paper prescription which was handed over at the pharmacy so medications could be dispensed.

With telehealth, a patient consults with their GP via telephone or video, but until recently, still had to visit the practice to pick up their prescription.

This is where electronic prescribing is useful.

With electronic prescribing, a GP can send a 2D barcode via an SMS or an email. The 2D barcode contains the prescription details. The patient can either visit a pharmacy to have the barcode scanned and have the medications dispensed, or forward the barcode to a pharmacy and have their medications delivered.

Electronic prescribing makes telehealth appointments with a GP and accessing medications more convenient. It also eliminates cross infections between patients in waiting rooms and between GPs and patients.

The 2D barcode is specific to a patient so medications cannot be dispensed to another person. If the barcode isn’t received or is lost, the patient can inform the medical practice and have the barcode re-sent.

The widespread use of telehealth and electronic prescribing are still relatively new, but with time, will become the norm in general practice.

Learn more about electronic prescribing

19 October 2021

South Western Sydney patients are no longer exempt from the “existing relationship requirement” for MBS telehealth services after the region was taken off the Commonwealth-declared hotspot list on Monday, 18 October.

The temporary MBS telehealth items put in place to reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and healthcare providers, will continue to be available until 31 December 2021.

Under current requirements, GPs can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient.

There are limited exemptions to this requirement, including:

  • the patient is in COVID-19 isolation because of a State or Territory public health order
  • the patient is in COVID-19 quarantine because of a State or Territory public health order
  • the patient is located in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot

This means that people who are not in isolation or quarantine, and are in a location which is no longer a Commonwealth-declared hotspot, are no longer be regarded as in a COVID-19 impacted area for the purposes of being exempt from the existing relationship requirement.

The MBS items for people in COVID-19 hotspots which are no longer in effect in South Western Sydney are 92746 and 92747.

What is COVID-19 isolation?

A person with COVID-19 or suspected to have it must enter mandatory isolation.

What is COVID-19 quarantine?

When a person is well but may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, they are required to isolate from other people to prevent the spread of the virus. The quarantine period is 14 days from when they may have been in contact with the virus.

What is a Commonwealth-declared hotspot?

The list of hotspots declared by the Chief Medical Officer is available on the Department of Health website.

Download COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services factsheet

29 October 2020

The Australian Department of Health has extended the Healthdirect Video Call Service Pilot Program to 30 June 2021. If you already have an account set up, SWSPHN’s Digital Health team encourages you to continue using this secure video consulting platform which has been purpose-built for primary health settings.

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 GP and non-GP type primary care services classed as Mental Health, Aged Care, Maternity, Indigenous Health and Allied Health services, which includes:

General practice; general practice after hours services; 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 worker; nurse practitioners; clinical psychologist; psychologist; occupational therapist; social worker; speech pathologist; and physiotherapy.

  • For GPs in private practice wanting to start using the service, please register here  for a free licence.
  • For GPs in ACCHOs wanting to start using the service, please register here for a free licence.
  • For all other eligible services, please register here for a free licence.

Please share these developments with your peers and colleagues who may benefit from the use of Healthdirect Video Call.

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

04 June 2020

“I was more relaxed in my consultation. I was in my familiar environment and the specialist and I were both at ease. I didn’t have the stress of getting the two people I care for sorted before the 90-minute drive to the city hospital for this appointment. I saved money on fuel and parking fees. I didn’t have to sit in a full waiting room. I didn’t have to turn down work for that entire day because of the travel time and waiting room time blowouts. The benefits of telehealth are immense.”

– Australia’s Health Panel respondent

The introduction of the expanded Telehealth Medicare benefit has drawn strong support from respondents to an Australia’s Health Panel survey, an initiative of the Consumers Health Forum (CHF).

The Telehealth services survey found that more than 80 per cent of those who were offered telehealth services used it. Of these, a similar proportion viewed the service as excellent or good quality.

“This response gives us any early indication of the value of telehealth particularly at a time of health anxiety as we are experiencing at present with COVID-19,” the CEO of Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“As the respondent’s comments quoted above show, telehealth offers considerable medical and social benefits for the many patients who may need to consult a doctor but do not require physical examination.

“CHF has also recently completed a survey on a related issue of access to medical care – after hours services. This showed that while most people expect they should be able to get care after hours, many people encounter significant difficulties.

“While the telehealth survey was of modest size, the overwhelmingly favourable response indicates strong community support for the scheme to continue in the post-COVID era.

“An interesting result was that slightly more panellists said the telehealth consultations were better than face-to-face consultations compared to  those who preferred face-to-face services.

“The survey found that key barriers to telehealth services were lack of access to required technology, unreliable internet access and non-awareness of the option.

“These sorts of issues will need to be resolved if telehealth services are available equally to all Australians. This initiative might have become imperative because of the necessities triggered by COVID but telehealth and digital technology generally is becoming routine and the way of the future.

“The survey on after hours care found more than two thirds of respondents had used after hours primary care at least once in the previous five years, with 43 per cent accessing services between  8pm and 11pm and 20 per cent between 11pm and 7am.

“There can be big differences from one region to another in availability of services, often with rural areas having meagre services. The great variation is shown by the survey results which found 24 per cent of respondents reported easy-to-access after-hours services, 18 per cent found it difficult and 25 per cent extremely difficult to get care outside of business hours.

“The results of these two surveys offer fresh impetus for the Government to exploit telehealth further in ways that bridge the gap in access to Medicare between city and country,” Ms Wells said.

MEDIA RELEASE – Consumers Health Forum of Australia