Telepsychiatry and face-to-face psychiatric consultations during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: patients being heard and seen

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Objective: The Australian federal government introduced additional Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth-items to facilitate care by private psychiatrists during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: We analysed private psychiatrists’ uptake of video and telephone-telehealth, as well as total (telehealth and face-to-face) consultations for April 2020–April 2021. We compare these to face-to-face consultations for April 2018–April 2019. MBS-Item service data were extracted for COVID-19-psychiatrist-video- and telephone-telehealth item numbers and compared with face-to-face consultations for the whole of Australia. Results: Psychiatric consultation numbers (telehealth and face-to-face) were 13% higher during the first year of the pandemic compared with 2018–2019, with telehealth accounting for 40% of this total. Face-to-face consultations were 65% of the comparative number of 2018–2019 consultations. There was substantial usage of telehealth consultations during 2020–2021. The majority of telehealth involved short telephone consultations of ⩽15–30 min, while video was used more, in longer consultations. Conclusions: Private psychiatrists and patients continued using the new telehealth-items during 2020–2021. This compensated for decreases in face-to-face consultations and resulted in an overall increase in the total patient contacts compared to 2018–2019.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-211
Number of pages6
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Volume30
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

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

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