Improve Your Practice

With telehealth, or ‘healthcare at a distance’, gaining ground due to technological advancements and many practices offering telehealth consultations, practice managers need to ensure their practice complies with Medicare and documentation requirements.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is known as the transmission of health information and images via a range of telecommunication technologies. MBS rebates for telehealth video consultations commenced in July 2011. Video consultations are an alternative to face-to-face consultations and may be of particular benefit for patients and practitioners located in rural and remote telehealth eligible areas.

Medicare now provides incentives and rebates for medical practitioners to engage with patients via video consultations in specific circumstances. Patients must be located in rural and remote areas, or in eligible aged care facilities or Aboriginal medical services throughout Australia. Rebates are also available for clinical services provided by a health professional who is present with the patient during the video consultation.

Practices may investigate the opportunity to utilise telehealth technology in certain situations outside of those circumstances covered by the MBS rebates. In these circumstances, practices are not bound by the guidelines defined by Medicare but will be required to meet ethical and professional standards. If practices are going to utilise telehealth they should ensure that they adopt appropriate protocols to ensure that they will be covered by their medical and practice insurance.

Medicare requirements

Medicare rebates are available for video consultations where a patient consults with a specialist in specific circumstances and if clinically appropriate. There must be both a video and an audio link.

A specialist must be satisfied that it is clinically appropriate to provide a video consultation to a patient. Advice from the referring practitioner may assist in this decision and the referring practitioner and specialist should be satisfied that adequate care can be given in the absence of an examination being performed by a specialist. This will need to be determined on a patient-by-patient basis as well as a specialist-by-specialist basis.

Medicare rebates for specialist consultations are available across the full range of medical specialties. There may be a general practitioner, midwife, nurse practitioner, Aboriginal health worker or practice nurse providing services on behalf of a general practitioner, present to provide “patient-end” services. The practitioner at the patient end, if any, may conduct parts of the examination under direction from the specialist.

General practitioners providing the patient-end services are ordinarily entitled to a Medicare rebate. However, general practitioners who provide direct telehealth consultations with patients cannot claim the Medicare rebate but can charge privately.


All users and practitioners should keep full notes of their consults with patients as though the patient was sitting in the room with them. Practitioners at the patient-end must keep records of the consultations that specifically document:

1. that the service was performed by video conference

2. the time taken to conduct the consultation

3. the people who participated in the consultation.

Avant’s Practitioner Indemnity Insurance Policy

Avant’s Practitioner Indemnity Insurance Policy provides cover for claims made against a practitioner by a patient or a patient’s family in relation to the practitioner providing telehealth. Telehealth is defined in the policy as “Healthcare or Unpaid Healthcare to, or in respect of a patient who is not in the same place, that uses any form of technology, to enable it to be provided, including video-conferencing, internet and telephone”. This cover excludes claims that arise as a result of telehealth provided to, or in respect of, a patient outside Australia or claims that involve proceedings brought overseas. Cover is otherwise subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy.

There are many other issues to be aware of when undertaking telehealth consultations, including follow-up of patients, technology issues, security and privacy of information, consent and communication.

Next page

Cloud computing
  • Manage your computing resources
  • Moving data to the cloud
  • How does the cloud work?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the risks involved?

This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.