8 September 2017

College pushes for telehealth rebates

General Practice MBS RACGP

The RACGP is urging the removal of curbs on telehealth consultations and opening up point-of-care tests to GPs in the next round of MBS reforms.

As a principle, the Medicare Benefits Schedule should offer patient rebates for telehealth consults between a patient and their regular GP or practice, the College says in a submission to the MBS Review Taskforce.

It suggests amending an explanatory note to clarify that professional attendances by medical practitioners cover consultations either face-to-face or via telehealth.

“Operational issues such as gaming and auditing will need to be addressed.  However, these are no different to the issues that exist within the current MBS,” the RACGP says.

It proposes time-based item numbers for telehealth consults of five minutes or more, 20 minutes or more, and at least 40 minutes, conducted at consulting rooms, not at consulting rooms, and at residential aged-care facilities.

Where the technology exists for point-of-care testing with the accuracy of laboratory tests, MBS item numbers should be available for use in general practice with the same patient rebate as for pathology laboratories, the RACGP argues.

The ability to give patients immediate results and leave with an action plan in place would reduce the need for return visits and cut costs.

The submission says many GPs already provide services like INR testing without MBS support for the benefit of patients and they should have the option to expand their offerings.

Evidence has shown that general practice cannot compete with laboratories on cost, but they can compete on quality, the college says.

“In areas of need, such as rural, additional support funding may be required to make PoCT viable.”

The submission lists nine tests for consideration, including semen analysis, blood tests, microscopy of urine, and occult blood in faeces.

“As technology progresses, GPs will be able to provide more tests via PoCT.”