On 27 November 2020, the Australian Minister for Health announced an intention to make universal, whole-of-population telehealth services permanently available in Australia.

On 30 March 2020, the Health Insurance (Section 3C General Medical Services – COVID-19 Telehealth and Telephone Attendances) Determination 2020 (Cth) (Telehealth Determination) came into force. Pursuant to this determination, subsidies for a range of remotely-delivered healthcare services were introduced under Medicare (Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare system), including standard general practitioner (GP) consultations. That is, a variety of telehealth services, including GP consultations via telephone or video-conferencing, became available at no cost to the patient under Medicare.

Initially, when the Telehealth Determination came into force, telehealth services were available in circumstances where there was no pre-existing provider-patient relationship. The Telehealth Determination was subsequently amended so that from 20 July 2020, telehealth GP providers were required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide telehealth services. The Telehealth Determination is currently scheduled to be revoked on 31 March 2021.

The details regarding the telehealth arrangements that will be made permanent have not yet been published. It is understood that the details are still being considered by the Australian Commonwealth Government and more information will be forthcoming. Whether the current regime for the subsidy of telehealth services will be made permanent, or a different version of operations will be introduced, remains to be seen.

For more information about telehealth regulation in Australia, please contact Greg Bodulovic or Stephanie Wang.

Please also see our new Global Telehealth Guide with up to date information about the regulation of telehealth in 45 countries around the world.