Western Victoria PHN Welcomes News of the Continuation of Medicare-subsidised Telehealth Services in Australia

Western Victoria PHN CEO Rowena Clift described today’s announcement that telehealth services will become a permanent fixture of Australia’s Medicare system as a turning point for primary health care.

Ms Clift welcomed today’s announcement from Commonwealth Minister for Health Greg Hunt that telehealth consultations will continue to be covered by the Medicare Benefits Scheme while advising a clear strategy would be needed for moving forward to ensure health care remains accessible to all.

“This is terrific news for our primary health care providers and the thousands of patients in western Victoria who have embraced telehealth services as a viable alternative to face-to-face consultations,” Ms Clift said.

“Western Victoria’s general practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals have clearly told us that a shining light during the COVID-19 pandemic this year has been the ability to access telehealth. A survey of primary health providers in our region found 100 per cent of respondents agreed that telehealth should be here to stay. However, we need to be objective about what value it brings to healthcare as well as understanding its limitations. Telehealth has been vital for maintaining connections between health professionals and patients during COVID-19. However, it should never be considered a substitute for face-toface consultations.”

“We need to ensure that patients across our region have not been disadvantaged during the year, when they have not been able to access face-to-face consultations with their GP. At the same time, how do we make telehealth equitable for people with special needs? And what do we need to do to ensure patients’ preferences are considered?”

Western Victoria PHN will continue to liaise with the Commonwealth Government to ensure the views of our community are taken into account as the digital health field expands.