New temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth items are now available to a wide range of health providers as part of the response to reducing the risk of community transmission of COVID-19.

The extension of the MBS telehealth items allows a greater number of health care providers to use video or phone calls for consultations with their patients.

The new MBS items were effective from 13 March 2020 and will be in place until 31 March 2021. All consultations are for non-admitted patients.

Please note

  • a service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.
  • from July 20, GP providers must have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide telehealth services. A relationship is defined as the patient having seen the same practitioner for a face-to-face service in the past 12 months, or having seen a doctor at the same practice for a face-to-face service during the same period. People under the age of 12 months or people who are experiencing homelessness will be exempt, as are patients currently resident in areas under stage 3 restrictions. They will be able to have access to any provider.

Who can access the MBS telehealth items

MBS telehealth items are now available for the following providers:

  • General practitioners
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
  • Allied health providers
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Psychologists
  • Obstetricians
  • Midwives
  • Specialists and consultant physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Practice nurses

The items list is being regularly updated. Please refer to the MBS website for the latest details.

The Department of Health has also released a COVID-19 Telehealth Items Guide to help health professionals understand the requirements associated with telehealth items and their appropriate use.

For further details, see also

What constitutes telehealth

Under the new temporary items, video consultations are the preferred method for telehealth. However, audio-only consultations are also permitted. There are separate item numbers for each.

For further information refer to RACGP’s Guide to providing telephone and video consultations in general practice.

How to access a telehealth service

There is no specific hardware or application requirement to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services.

Western Victoria PHN can facilitate the use of Healthdirect Video Call.  This service is available to health care providers who are providing services under MBS. Contact Western Victoria PHN for account creation and setup support.

Private health  care providers can contact Healthdirect by emailing videocall@healthdirect.org.au

Telehealth for psychological therapy services

Eligible patients with a mental health treatment plan in rural and remote areas may be able to access mental health support via video conference.

This is available through the Federal Government’s Better Access initiative

Templates and instructions

More information

Contact Western Victoria PHN’s Digital Health team

Last modified: 25 September, 2020