By April Murph
The fourth stage in primary care measures for COVID-19 has been released and sees changes to the state’s telehealth services.
Queensland’s telehealth online capacity for patients has dramatically increased and is now able to host 1600 users at any one time.
To provide continued access to essential primary health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has expanded Medicare subsidised telehealth services for all Australians and is providing extra incentives to general practitioners and other health practitioners.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the boosted capacity will help ease the burden the novel coronavirus pandemic will place on the state’s health system.
“This huge increase in online appointments will decrease the number of patients who need to physically present at hospitals,” says Minister Miles.
The Health Direct has said that if a patient is vulnerable, uncomfortable about seeing a doctor in person or have chosen to self-isolate, one now has the option to access the Medicare-subsided telehealth services.
For bulk-billed GP consultations, the service can be accessed via your phone or computer using apps such as FaceTime or Skype.
You can also use Medicare-funded telehealth to access services such as:
• Mental health treatment
• Chronic disease management
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments
• Treatment for eating disorders
• Pregnancy support counselling
• Services to patients in aged care facilities
• Services for children with autism
• After-hours consultations and nurse practitioners
“It frees up hospitals and health clinics and also means some of our most at-risk patients with pre-existing conditions no longer need to travel away from their local community or enter hospital environments,” says Mr Miles.
In addition, the Government will establish an incentive payment to ensure practices stay open to provide face-to-face services where they are essential for patients with conditions that can’t be treated through telehealth.
The new arrangements commenced on Monday 30 March and will be in place until 30 September 2020, when they will be reviewed in light of the need to continue the battle against COVID-19.
The Federal Government has also approved a number of temporary changes to medicines regulation to ensure Australians can continue to access the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) medicines they need, as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds.
The measures include:
• Continued dispensing arrangements for the ongoing supply PBS subsidised medicines without a prescription will be extended to 30 June 2020.
• A home delivery service for PBS and RPBS (Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) medicines is now in place.
• Ongoing work with pharmacists, GPs and the States and Territories to allow medicine substitution by the pharmacist in the event of a shortage.
• Restrictions on the number of medicines that can be purchased to prevent unnecessary medicine stockpiling.