Thursday, 18 June 2020
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the telehealth Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items introduced during the COVID-19 crisis have provided many Australian patients with safe, continued access to healthcare from their homes when they might otherwise have forgone these consultations,
(ii) telehealth provides particular benefits for patients with mobility issues, disadvantaged families, rural and remote patients, and Indigenous Australians,
(iii) the telehealth items, spanning general practice, mental health, specialist, allied health and other consultations have allowed greater protection for healthcare professionals during the pandemic, while allowing them to continue delivering care to patients,
(iv) greater use of telehealth has been a long-term reform objective in the Australian health system for many years, and has the potential to allow greater, more equitable access to healthcare across Australia long after the COVID-19 pandemic, and
(v) the current telehealth items introduced during COVID-19 are due to expire on 30 September 2020;
(b) acknowledges that:
(i) telehealth consultations cannot and should not fully replace face-to-face consultations, but offer choice and accessibility to healthcare when required, and
(ii) video consultations are preferable to telephone consultations where possible, while acknowledging that Australians have inequitable access to high quality broadband services, and some older Australians in particular face barriers to accessing video consultations; and
(c) calls on the Government to make the telehealth MBS items permanent, with a full evaluation after 12 months, including of patient access, compliance, and continuity of care.
Question agreed to.