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Media release

MBS Review must have greater support for consultation medicine

10 November 2015

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to place a greater value on consultation medicine.

In its submission to the MBS Taskforce Review, the RACGP says a focused review of general practice item numbers is needed, recognising the complexity of delivering quality general practice services.

RACGP President Dr Frank R Jones said general practice was unique among the medical specialties – most of which are procedurally focused – and urged for a more concentrated focus through the establishment of a General Practice Clinical Committee.

“General practice expenditure accounts for only one-third of total Medicare spending, yet there are now 140 million general practice consultations each year1,” Dr Jones said.

Dr Jones said a greater focus on consultations, including more support for longer consultations, would enable patients and GPs to take the time needed to address all relevant issues, particularly for those with multiple, complex health conditions.

“Currently, the value of a patient’s rebate decreases significantly per minute the longer the consultation, penalising patients who require more time,” Dr Jones said.

The submission also calls for a greater focus and expansion of MBS item numbers for preventive health, aligned with evidence-based activities as per the RACGP’s Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice (Red Book).

“The current focus in the MBS on supporting preventive health is minimal,” Dr Jones said.

“An increased focus on longer consultations will go part way in allowing GPs the time to undertake preventive health activities with their patients, however more must be done to better support preventive healthcare.”

Key features of the RACGP’s submission also include:

  • Rebalancing the value of Chronic Disease Management item numbers, to better support the delivery of care for patients with complex needs
  • Amendment of the standard GP consultation descriptors to support telehealth consultations. This would improve access to care for patients in rural and remote areas, for people with limited mobility and/or limited access to transport.
  • The inclusion of point-of-care testing (PoCT) – pathology testing performed by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner at the time of consultation, which allows for immediate and informed decisions about patient care.

The RACGP’s full submission is available to view on the RACGP website.

References

  1. Department of Health. Annual Medicare statistics. Canberra: DoH, 2014. Available at www.health.gov.au/internet/main/ publishing.nsf/Content/Annual-Medicare-Statistics [Accessed 30 October 2015].

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