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Supporting patients during telehealth consultations with another specialist

Introduction

Telehealth services use information and communication technologies to deliver healthcare services and transmit health information. This can include via telephone consultation, email or videoconferencing. Telehealth is becoming more popular as a mode of healthcare delivery due to the benefits it provides to both patients and practitioners, particularly those in rural and remote areas. It has the potential to provide patients with more convenient and efficient access to healthcare.

Telehealth consultations can be synchronous (delivered in real time – eg video consultations) or asynchronous (not delivered in real time – eg using email and/or sending images such as photographs of skin or wounds for review at a later time).

Telehealth video consultations can improve synchronous access to specialist healthcare services for patients who live in regional, rural and remote areas, as these consultations are supported through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

This guide focuses on telehealth video consultations covered under the MBS where a general practitioner (GP), practice nurse or Aboriginal health worker is physically present with the patient to provide patient-end services during a consultation with a specialist at another location.

Broadly, a telehealth video consultation is:

  • a clinical consultation performed via a videoconferencing platform, where the patient and consulting specialist are not in the same physical location
  • information transmitted electronically during the consultation from the location of the GP/practice nurse/Aboriginal health worker and patient to another healthcare professional at a second location
  • the GP/practice nurse/Aboriginal health worker providing support to the patient, employing clinical skills and judgement to provide healthcare and feedback to both the specialist and the patient.

This guide will help GPs and other eligible practitioners to provide safe and effective video consultations, and outlines the clinical, administrative and technical considerations when introducing this mode of healthcare delivery.