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Possible telehealth extension welcome

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the news that the Federal Government will move to extend the Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations in the coming days – the subsidies are due to expire on 30 September 2020.

“The last thing we want is for Australia’s GPs and patients be left hanging,” says RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda.

“… now more than ever, in the midst of a pandemic, general practice and patients across Australia [need] certainty that telehealth consultations will be available beyond the end of the month.

“The pandemic will not end on 30 September, so we welcome news of an imminent positive announcement that the Medicare subsidies enabling widespread use of video and telehealth consultations will continue.”

According to Dr Shenouda “the vast majority of GPs have embraced telehealth” and adds that “we can’t just slam the door shut on telehealth consultations as the results could prove extremely dire”.

“I am encouraged that we’ll soon have some certainty about a telehealth extension, so we can support our patients who are still reluctant to book a face-to-face consultation with their GP.

“We’ve been saying for many months that we don’t want to see patients delay or avoid a consultation as we fear health concerns that could have been managed effectively in a GP’s office will worsen and require a hospital visit.”

RACGP President-elect Dr Karen Price adds that GPs will play a vital role in continuing to help patients affected by Covid-19 in the months and years ahead.

“We are still learning about the long-term health consequences of this virus, which are likely to be severe,” says Dr Price.

“GPs on the frontline will be crucial in managing the effects of patients who have been delaying or avoiding care, as well as the impacts of the virus itself on long-term physical and mental wellbeing.

“Consider too, the likely increase in mental health concerns in many patients and the crucial support telehealth provides for communities with limited access to primary care.

“Telehealth has been a game changer because it has not only assisted in limiting the transmission of Covid-19, but has also improved flexibility for patients in accessing the care they need.”

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