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Specialists paid to embrace telehealth

Additional Medicare rebates for both the city specialist, and the healthcare worker physically with the patient.

Medical specialists who provide videolink consultations to patients in remote areas will be paid a 50 per cent bonus in an effort to encourage them to adopt the new technology.

Under Labor's $620 million telehealth initiative both city specialists and any healthcare worker physically with the patient will receive additional Medicare rebates.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said GPs, nurses, midwives and Aboriginal health workers who sit with patients during their video consultation will receive their usual Medicare fee plus an extra 35 per cent.

"New Medicare items will allow a range of existing consultation services to be provided via video conferencing and additional rebates on top of these items recognise the increased complexity of providing a service to a remote patient," Roxon said in a statement.

The Gillard government will offer a $6000 one-off incentive payment to practitioners when they provide their first telehealth consultation.

To encourage bulk billing, the commonwealth will pay practitioners an extra $20 for each videolink service charged in that manner. But only for 12 months.

The new Medicare rebates for telehealth services will begin on July 1.

Patients in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas will normally link to a big city specialist from their GP's clinic.

But a centrally-located facility could provide the service. That central location could be a community centre, chemist, aged-care home or Aboriginal medical service.

Further, patients won't always need to have a healthcare worker with them when they consult their specialist online if it is not "clinically relevant or the best use of available resources".


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