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New telehealth initiatives to fight COVID-19

The Australian Government has announced new Telehealth initiatives to fight the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Below is an extract from a media release; read the full document here .

$100 million will fund a new Medicare service for people in home isolation or quarantine, as a result coronavirus, to receive health consultations via the phone or video such as FaceTime or Skype.

The telehealth service will help contain the spread of the virus and it will be bulk-billed at no cost to patients and will be available from Friday 13 March.

These telehealth consultation services will be provided by doctors, both GPs and specialists, nurses and mental health allied health workers and will also be available under Medicare for people aged over 70, people with chronic diseases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant people and new parents with babies.

These people are at greater risk from the virus and treatment home will minimise their risk of exposure.  This will be available to these groups for non-coronavirus consultations as a general health measure.

The Government will provide $25 million to fund home medicines services which will enable patients to have their PBS prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have the medicines delivered to their home.

This service will be available for people in home isolation and for vulnerable patient groups.

All pharmacies with e-prescribing will be eligible to participate in the home medicines services and patients will continue to retain choice in their preferred community pharmacy.

To support GPs and pharmacies, the Government will fast track the rollout of electronic prescribing across Australia with funding of $5 million.

Patients will have access to services via the GP, telehealth, the national hotline, state hotlines, dedicated respiratory clinics and hospitals.

The national triage phone line will therefore be expanded with an additional $50.7 million in funding, operating 24/7 to provide advice to patients.

The free-call hotline will advise people on the best course of action depending on their symptoms and risks. Medical staff will direct people to the nearest hospital or respiratory clinic, or advise them to stay home and self-monitor, or contact their GP.

People who are not severely ill with COVID-19 – 80 per cent of people will have a mild illness – will be directed to GPs or a network of well-resourced GP-led respiratory clinics.