Guidelines For Technology-Based Patient Consultations In Australia          

On 13 December 2021, the Australian Government announced it is providing $106 million over four years to support continuing telehealth services. This additional investment in Medicare services and practice incentive payments ensures greater flexibility to patients and doctors for the delivery of healthcare, allowing GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals to continue to consult with their regular patients by phone or video conferencing.

At Tego, we want our Australian Healthcare practitioners to know the guidelines set up by Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia. 

Below is a brief summary of the guidelines: 

1. Medicare requirement

The major requirement for telehealth consultations is that you must have an established clinical relationship with the patient prior to the telehealth appointment, this is defined as having had at least one face-to-face appointment in 12 months prior to the telehealth attendance.  In the absence of that established clinical relationship you cannot claim a Medicare rebate for the telehealth consult.  

2. Patient’s medical records 

You need to ensure that you will be able to access your patients’ medical records through your clinic’s software management system or otherwise whilst you are undertaking telehealth. This is so that you will be able to assess your patient’s condition based on history, and record your observations of that appointment. It is also essential for you to have access to any radiological imaging, blood test and pathology results to allow you to make an appropriate clinical assessment of your patient during your telehealth consultations.  

3. Good and clear internet connection

Part of your obligation as a healthcare practitioner is to confirm the identity of your patient, and to effectively communicate and ensure that they understand their current medical condition, use of medication, cause of their condition, and the proposed course of treatment (“standard of consultation”). As such, you will need to ensure that you have good internet connectivity to sustain a video consultation that will ensure both you and the patient can see and hear each other at all times and maintain the standard of consultation that is required of you. If you advise a patient that the consultation should be in person you should give careful consideration as to whether you have gathered and recorded enough clinical information in the consult to warrant raising a Medicare charge or whether the work will be required to be repeated by the next doctor (in-person) and hence the charge cannot be justified.     

4. Ensure that someone else can pick up your patient’s care when required

Besides being able to keep and take a clear record of the consultation, you will need to ensure that you have access to means that will allow your colleagues to pick up the care of your patients, especially when you know that you will be sharing the care of your patient.  

5. Ability to refer to an appropriate medical specialist or practitioner

You also need to ensure that at your remote location, you will still be able to refer your patient to specialists and/or follow up on such referrals should the need arise. For instance, you should be able (or put in place an arrangement) to provide your patient with a referral letter via electronic means or otherwise.  

6. Supervision

It is imperative that you are not a supervised practitioner as your supervisor will need to be on-site to supervise your practice. In the event that you are supervising another practitioner, you will need to make arrangements for them to be supervised by another practitioner who will be able to supervise them on site. 

The Tego team of experts are here to answer any questions

Tego is an Australian medical indemnity insurance provider and we cover your practice with medical indemnity insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, gp medical indemnity insurance, medical malpractice insurance, medical practice insurance, and more. If you are a health practitioner with Tego, we offer 24/7 medico-legal advice and support in regards to what you need to know about telehealth regulations in Australia. 

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitutes legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. All content on this page has been written in a generic way, and has not been presented with any knowledge of your personal objectives or financial needs.