With the COVID-19 pandemic providing ongoing challenges to us professionally and personally, ANZAED will continue to provide leadership and advocacy to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of eating disorders. In this current climate we aim to keep our members abreast of all the changes to our health system.
In March and April 2020 the Australian Government has actively responded to COVID-19, through the gradual introduction of temporary MBS telehealth items to ensure continued access to essential Medicare-rebated consultation services. Initially some telehealth services needed to be bulk-billed but this requirement has been gradually released.
ANZAED welcomes these developments. We have been aware of the impact of the initial restrictions COVID-19 requirements under Medicare on our members and their practices. We’re also aware that many clients are likely to have experienced an impact on their mental health and changes to their mental financial circumstances due to COVID-19. We encourage practitioners to continue to review their patients’ circumstances and, where they are able, to continue offer reduced or bulk billed fees, in line with patient need.
Initially temporary telehealth items needed to be bulk billed. This restrictions was gradually released, and as of 20 April practitioners became able to apply their usual billing practices (e.g. charging gap fees) to the telehealth items and regular Items for mental health services as well as eating disorder services, or o alternatively bulk bill. Providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to providing telehealth services; and provide details regarding their fees, including any out-of-pocket cost to clients.
The extension of the Medicare benefits also applies to the Eating Disorder Plan completed by psychologists and dietitians through telehealth, please see further information here: http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/0C514FB8C9FBBEC7CA25852E00223AFE/$File/Factsheet-COVID-19-Bulk-billed-MBS%20telehealth-Services-Overarching-17.09.2020.pdf
- Providers do not need to be in their regular practice to provide telehealth services. Providers should use their provider number for their primary location, and must offer safe services in accordance with normal professional standards. Telehealth treatment should not be offered in the case the clinician deems it inappropriate or has the potential to do harm.
- The telehealth MBS items will substitute current face-to-face consultations that are available under the MBS. The telehealth items will have similar requirements to normal timed consultation items.
- The same limits to MBS items apply under telehealth as face to face, including the 10 session limit per calendar year for those referred under Better Access. Those under EDMPs are eligible for rebate for Telehealth sessions and remain eligible for up to 40 sessions in a 12 month period.
- No specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services. Services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others. It is up to the clinician to explore the capacity of each of these platforms to offer the appropriate level of privacy and security to their patients.
For more details see MBS Information Sheets
Videoconference services are the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers will also be able to offer audio-only services via telephone if video is not available. There are separate items available for the audio-only services.
No specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services. Services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others. Free versions of these applications (i.e. non-commercial versions) may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy. Practitioners must ensure that their chosen telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.
The services will be available until 30 September 2020. The continuing availability of these items will be reviewed prior to 30 September 2020.