Medicare Approves Telehealth Psychology Services

As of November 2017, Medicare has authorised the provision of Telehealth psychology services (videoconferencing via Skype, Zoom, Coviu or similar technologies) for patients in certain regional and remote areas.  These areas are defined as those classified as regions 4 to 7 in the Modified Monash Model (External link to Dept of Health website).

In areas around Newcastle, some of the towns falling within those catchment areas include:

  • Anna Bay
  • Nelson Bay
  • Salamander Bay
  • Shoal Bay
  • Hawks Nest
  • Tea Gardens
  • Singleton
  • Scone
  • Muswellbrook

… and if you live close to one of those places, you may also be covered.

What does it mean for psychology patients?

Importantly, the Medicare Telehealth option is only available under a GP Mental Health Plan and requires that the first session be conducted face-to-face.   The Telehealth option will not work for every patient.  Medicare also specifies that 3 out of the 10 sessions available under the Mental Health Plan referral need to be face-to-face.  Depending on your individual circumstances, your psychologist may request more face-to-face contact and less video-conferencing, or (occasionally) may decide that Telehealth is not appropriate given your presenting issues.

As a potential Telehealth patient, you will need to have access to a good internet connection (NBN, ADSL2+, or 3G+ mobile data) as well as a videocamera and microphone.  Medicare do not permit Telehealth rebate claims for phone-only services…it has to be video-conferencing.  If you don’t have a good internet connection, you might want to ask your referring doctor if they have the required equipment and a private room that you could use to access this service.

In those cases where your psychologist is travelling to your location for one of the required face-to-face appointments, an upfront payment and/or deposit will be required.

Gap fees (out-of-pocket cost to you) will always apply for face-to-face appointments conducted at your location, as per current standard fees.   Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for bulk-billing for the Telehealth sessions and/or for sessions attended onsite in our Newcastle office.

What does it mean for referring GPs?

If you are a GP in one of the above areas and are able to provide an office space for a visiting Clinical Psychologist once every 4 to 6 weeks, please contact to discuss.  I am willing to come onsite to support your clients if the referral numbers per day are adequate.  This would usually need to be on a Monday or a Friday.  If you have facilities that would be able to support a Telehealth service for your patients (i.e. NBN connection and a private and secure video-conferencing system), I would be very keen on discussing service delivery options.

Medicare Telehealth Psychology: Key Points

  • Patient will require a current GP Mental Health Plan (Better Access) referral.
  • Patient must be in Modified Monash Model areas 4 to 7
  • Patient must also be able to attend face-to-face appointments from time to time.
  • First appointment must be face-to-face.
  • At least 3 out of 10 appointments available per calendar year under a GP Mental Health Plan must be face-to-face*
  • Not all patients may be suitable for Telehealth services.
  • Gap fees will apply for onsite appointments (outside Newcastle office).
  • No-show and late cancellation fees apply to Telehealth sessions, as per practice policies.

* In practical terms, this will usually mean the first and fourth appointments are face-to-face, with one additional face-to-face appointment being conducted in the 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th session.

 

 

 

 

 

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