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March 26, 2020
Medicare rebates

Modern technology allows for consultations with health professionals to occur via a video link, and this is referred to as “telehealth”.

Studies have shown that telehealth physiotherapy consultations are effective and safe.

While there is a limitation in terms of the inability to perform hands-on assessments and provide hands-on treatments, a fairly thorough assessment can be performed and treatment in the form of advice, education and/or exercise prescription can be provided.

Telehealth is advantageous in situations where physical access to the clinic is an issue. In the past, the distance from the clinic has been the main barrier to accessing the clinic and so it has primarily been utilised in rural settings. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, avoiding an in-person trip to the physiotherapy clinic is beneficial in reducing the risk of spread of the virus.

For this reason, Medicare and private health insurers are about to start covering telehealth consultations for physiotherapists. As of when I’m writing this (26/03/2020), neither currently cover the service, but there are plans for private health insurers to cover in some circumstances from April 14, and medicare codes for physiotherapy telehealth consultations are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

I have decided to implement telehealth consultations in the clinic as of today. During the COVID-19 pandemic I’d encourage patients to utilise telehealth where it’s effective.

How is it going to work?

Good question! I anticipate there will be a teething process, but currently the plan is:

  • The appointment is booked for a particular time, as you would any other appointment. That may be over the phone, via online booking, via email, facebook etc.
  • You will then be emailed a link (from sender “invitations”) which will take you to the physiotherapist’s virtual consulting room.
  • When it is time for your appointment you can click on the link to enter the virtual consulting room. You can use your computer, tablet or mobile phone and don’t need to download any software. The device you’re using will require a camera, microphone, speakers and internet connection. None of your information is collected by or saved on the software being used.
  • When you enter the virtual room you will be added to a call with the physio. There may be a short period of holding required, just as there may be a short period of sitting in the waiting room required. (The hold music is supposed to be very good).
  • Shortly after you’re greeted you will be asked to pay via credit card using a platform called Stripe.
  • The consultation will then proceed and will include subjective assessment (interviewing), objective assessment (observation, range of movement assessment, functional movements etc) and treatment (education, advice, exercise prescription).
  • We will arrange a time for a follow up appointment if required.
  • Treatment notes will be stored on our in-practice software as with all other treatment notes.
  • If any equipment is required to be provided or purchased (such as theraband, braces, tape), then this can be taken to you in your car in the clinic’s carpark, or possibly dropped at your door depending on your location.
  • You will be provided with an emailed receipt following the payment, which can be used to claim from health funds or Medicare if you’re eligible.

How much will it cost?

The cost, like the procedure listed above, may change in time, but initially the cost will be $60 for an initial consultation and $50 for a follow up consultation.

This is less costly than in-person appointments, reflecting the fact that hands-on assessments and treatments can’t be provided.

As mentioned, Medicare rebates are likely to become available for certain people in coming days, and private health rebates will be available for some patients from April 14.

Who will be covered by Medicare rebates?

Until they’re released we can’t be sure. However, other medicare rebates for telehealth have been made available for other allied health disciplines, covering the following patients

  • Aged over 70
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander aged over 50
  • People with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised
  • Pregnant women & parents of children <12 months

Who will be covered by private health rebates?

  • Not all health funds have committed to covering this, so it’s worth checking with your particular health fund. However, the following people are to be covered by participating health funds
  • Clients undergoing existing course of treatment who have seen the physio over the past six months
  • New patients who have had telehealth physiotherapy recommended by a GP or other medical specialist, and the primary condition being treated is any of the following.
  1. Post orthopaedic surgery (eg knee replacement, rotator cuff repair)
  2. Chronic musculoskeletal conditions (eg osteoarthritis)
  3. Cardiac rehab, pulmonary rehab or pelvic floor muscle retraining (not specialised in by this physiotherapy clinic)

If you have any questions about telehealth services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you’re interested in booking a telehealth service, please contact us and let us know you’d like to make an appointment.

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