Private practice metropolitan telepsychiatry in smaller Australian jurisdictions during the COVID-19 pandemic: preliminary analysis of the introduction of new Medicare Benefits Schedule items

Jeffrey C.L. Looi, Stephen Allison, Tarun Bastiampillai, William Pring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To analyse the smaller Australian state/territory service impact of the introduction of new COVID-19 psychiatrist video and telephone telehealth Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. Method: MBS item service data were extracted for COVID-19 psychiatrist video and telephone telehealth item numbers corresponding to the pre-existing in-person consultations for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA) and Tasmania. Results: The overall rate of consultations (face-to-face and telehealth) increased during March and April 2020, compared to the monthly face-to-face consultation average, excepting Tasmania. Compared to an annual monthly average of in-person consultations for July 2018–June 2019, total telepsychiatry consultations were higher for April than May. For total video and telephone telehealth consultations combined, video consultations were lower in April and higher in May. As a percentage of combined telehealth and in-person consultations, telehealth was greater for April and lower for May compared to the monthly face-to-face consultation average. Conclusions: In the smaller states/territories, the private practice workforce rapidly adopted COVID-19 MBS telehealth items, with the majority of psychiatric consultation shifting to telehealth initially, and then returning to face-to-face. With a second wave of COVID-19 in Australia, telehealth is likely to remain a vital part of the national mental health strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Early online date5 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • private practice
  • psychiatrist
  • telehealth
  • telepsychiatry

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