Objective: The Australian Commonwealth Government introduced new psychiatrist Medicare-Benefits-Schedule (MBS)-telehealth items in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist with previously office-based psychiatric practice. We investigate private psychiatrists’ uptake of (1) video- and telephone-telehealth consultations for Quarter-2 (April–June) of 2020 and (2) total telehealth and face-to-face consultations in Quarter-2, 2020 in comparison to Quarter-2, 2019 for Australia. Methods: MBS item service data were extracted for COVID-19-psychiatrist-video- and telephone-telehealth item numbers and compared with a baseline of the Quarter-2, 2019 (April–June 2019) of face-to-face consultations for the whole of Australia. Results: Combined telehealth and face-to-face psychiatry consultations rose during the first wave of the pandemic in Quarter-2, 2020 by 14% compared to Quarter-2, 2019 and telehealth was approximately half of this total. Face-to-face consultations in 2020 comprised only 56% of the comparative Quarter-2, 2019 consultations. Most telehealth provision was by telephone for short consultations of ⩽15–30 min. Video consultations comprised 38% of the total telehealth provision (for new patient assessments and longer consultations). Conclusions: There has been a flexible, rapid response to patient demand by private psychiatrists using the new COVID-19-MBS-telehealth items for Quarter-2, 2020, and in the context of decreased face-to-face consultations, ongoing telehealth is essential.
- private practice