The Australian Federal Government has announced an extension of telehealth funding for general practitioners, allied health providers and specialists until 31 December 2021.
Telehealth services in Australia were initially subsidised from March 2020 in response to COVID-19 pandemic, as patients transitioned to remote consultations during lockdowns across the country. This latest announcement follows a series of previous telehealth-related decisions made by the Federal Government over the past 12 months, including an intention to make universal, whole-of-population telehealth services permanently available due to a positive reception to the use of telehealth in Australia.
The Federal Government’s decision comes in light of an extension of the Health Insurance (Section 3C General Medical Services – COVID-19 Telehealth and Telephone Attendances) Determination 2020 (Telehealth Determination) which was set to expire on 30 June 2021. The Telehealth Determination is now expected to continue through to the end of 2021 as the Government collaborates with key health services bodies to design and implement a post-pandemic telehealth system.
Under the Telehealth Determination, Australian patients can continue to access a range of subsidised remotely-delivered healthcare services under Medicare (Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare system). The extension of the Telehealth Determination means that various telehealth services, including GP consultations via telephone or video-conferencing, remain available at no cost to patients under Medicare.
Telehealth services have been embraced by Australians, with more than 54 million Medicare-subsidised telehealth services delivered to 13.5 million patients in the 12 months from March 2020. More than 83,000 telehealth service providers have offered such services within this time, leading to $2.8 billion in Medicare benefits being paid. Given that telehealth services in Australia have seen an exponential advancement since the commencement of the pandemic, it is likely that such services will remain a key area of growth and development in Australia in the coming years.
For more information about DLA Piper’s services in the telehealth space and further information about our global telehealth guide, please contact the authors.