Telehealth is one of the many policy areas in which the College has been working during the pandemic.

In Australia, the College was a strong supporter of the temporary telehealth MBS item numbers and more recently has been writing to and speaking with the Commonwealth Minister for Health’s office and the Commonwealth Department of Health to advocate for their extension beyond 30 September when they were due to expire.

As you may be already aware, on 18 September it was announced that these temporary item numbers will now be available until 31 March 2021.

Professor Mark Frydenberg, Chair of the Sustainability in Healthcare Working Group has led this work in parallel with his role leading the telehealth surveys which many of you have responded to and shared with your patients.

We have been advised that over the next few months the Commonwealth will be looking at the long-term future of telehealth. In our surveys 87.8 per cent of Fellows advised they would consider using telehealth once social distancing restrictions are eased, and 93.9 per cent of patients said they were satisfied with the quality of their telehealth consultation (point-in-time data – 18/9/20). Thus, aided by the data we have gathered from our surveys, we plan to continue engaging with the Commonwealth advocating strongly for a long-term role for telehealth in our health system.

Tony Sparnon
President, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons