In Clinic Updates

Phone and video telehealth consultations at HHMP will incur a gap from Feb 2023

Starting in early February 2023, Hunters Hill Medical Practice will be introducing a Gap fee for telehealth consultations.

With telehealth now a permanent offering post-pandemic, there has been an increased shift towards electronic consultations. Such consultations currently attract a Medicare telehealth rebate for Medicare eligible patients.

Are telehealth consults bulk billed?

Doctors working from HHMP have accommodated online consults during the height of the pandemic by only accepting telehealth Medicare rebate (bulk-billing). The main focus was on patient access and service delivery for the community. This was complimented by such services as our highly successful local vaccination clinic. The provision of these bulk-billed telehealth consults to patients for over 2 years now, has been a significant strain on doctors and practice infrastructure. Recent cuts to longer consults make this even more challenging.

Telehealth bookings block 15 minutes in the doctor’s day, yet by bulk billing these, the doctor is accepting a 150% discount to their usual fee. This is no longer viable in light of our continued focus on quality and desire to allocate appropriate time and resources to patient consultations. As such, from February 2023, telehealth consults will incur a private fee, meaning patients will have a gap following the Medicare rebate.

Please be assured that staff and doctors working at HHMP understand that patients face the same inflationary pressures and have spent a long time working out ways on streamlining this process and trying to keep gap costs to a minimum. As such, telehealth consult gaps will on average be about 15% below the usual in-practice gap fees. Please see the example below for more information.

An example of how the fees will work for a standard consult from February 2023

The most common consult both in person or via telehealth when you see a GP is the “Standard Consult”. The example below will help you understand the gaps.

The Medicare rebate for a standard consult is about $40.

The doctor’s fee at HHMP for an in-person standard consult is $105 (so $105 – $40 = $65 gap).

The doctor’s fee at HHMP for a telehealth standard consult will be $90 (so $90 – $40 = $50 gap).

Those in need will continue to be bulk-billed ($0 gap) using a tighter criteria that will be constantly reviewed.

Other consultation types

These gaps will be smaller than the example noted above (less than $50) for a brief consult and larger (more than $50) for longer consults or mental health plans and the like.

The fees and gaps are proportionate to the length of the consult and resultant Medicare rebate.

Telehealth is not always best

The best way to interact with your doctor is an in-person consultation. This applies even when you are ill as the ability to properly examine a patient (with appropriate PPE if needed) is paramount for a correct diagnosis and treatment. As such, there may be times where the doctor may ask you to attend in person for examination during a telehealth consult. If this were to occur, you will only incur 1 private fee, not 2.

Telehealth consults are especially appropriate for a known patient with a known issue. For example, giving blood or scan results, discussing referrals or reviewing a mental health plan.

If patients have not been seen in the practice for more than 1 year, then they do not meet the Medicare “recent service” criteria to be able to obtain a Medicare rebate. These patients face paying the whole cost out of pocket or presenting in person. Paying the whole cost out of pocket may at times not activate special item numbers such as a mental health plans and at such times an in person review is in the best interests of the patient.

We are here to help

Doctors working at HHMP have always focused on quality of care and providing patients with the time they need to properly address their concerns, no matter if they are privately billed or bulk-billed.  It is impossible to provide a quality service with a focus on medical excellence without charging a gap. That said, the staff and doctors at HHMP endeavour to assist those in need with reduced fees or bulk billing for select patients on a case by case basis. Please discuss this with your doctor.

If you have general questions about billings please speak to our reception team. Specific issues should be discussed with your doctor. Please call us on 02 9817 2080.

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