Catholic Health Australia says the Commonwealth Government’s decision to extend the current list of Medicare services delivered via telehealth to March 2021 is welcome, but that it should remain beyond the pandemic.
Funding for the majority of telehealth services was due to end on September 30 but a $2 billion subsidy will now ensure patients will still be able to access everything from early childhood appointments and neurological rehabilitation to mental health and drug abuse treatment.
CHA Director of Health Policy James Kemp said both patients and providers have benefited from the boom in telehealth provision.
“When COVID-19 hit, very few Australians were able to access telehealth services. But, six months into this pandemic, telehealth has transformed the way we deliver healthcare. It’s been embraced by both clinicians and patients, it’s providing value for money and a high standard of care,” Mr Kemp said.
“Telehealth should be here to stay and CHA strongly urges the Government to make it part of Australia’s health landscape beyond March 2020.”
Before COVID-19 hit, virtual care attendances accounted for only 0.1 per cent of all MBS-funded attendance but since March more than 30 million consultations have been delivered by telehealth, benefiting more than 10 million Australians.
Mr Kemp says the telehealth extension will prove particularly effective in reaching regional Australians as well as marginalised communities.
CHA says the past six months had been a huge learning curve for hospital providers across the country and that it’s now time to embed telehealth.
“It’s critically important that we get the delivery of telehealth right and ensure it augments the care our hospitals can deliver. It will not replace face-to-face consultations, but it is important to have the option there when patients need it.”
Catholic hospitals welcome telehealth funding extension but argue it should be a permanent fixture (Catholic Health Australia)