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Changes to Medicare for drought affected regions from 1 November 2018

November 15, 2018

Telehealth (Videoconference) Consultations

Eligible GPs in rural and remote regions who are accredited to deliver Focused Psychological Strategy consultations are now able to do this via telehealth (videoconference) under the Medicare Better Access initiative. 

GP Eligibility

GPs must be:

  • practicing in Monash Modified Model (MMM) regions 4 -7;
  • endorsed by the GP Mental Health Standards Collaboration as having completed mental health skills training; and
  • registered with Medicare to provide Focussed Psychological Strategies consultations under the Medicare Better Access initiative.

Patient Eligibility

Patient eligibility is as per the existing arrangements for the Better Access telehealth initiative implemented on 1 November 2017. For more information, visit

To find out more, please read our Changes to Medicare for Drought Affected Communities Fact Sheet.

Time-Limited Changes to Medicare

In addition, the Australian Government has made changes to Medicare under the Mental Health and Well-Being Support by Telehealth in Drought-Affected Communities initiative. These changes will expire on 30 June 2020.

What does this mean for GPs?

Six new MBS items will be available to enable medical practitioners working in Modified Monash 3 to 7 areas to provide general mental health and well-being support access via telehealth (videoconference). Eligible patients are those living in areas belonging to the 81 drought declared councils identified under the Drought Communities Programme.

Eligible Councils in the Darling Downs and West Moreton Region

  • Lockyer Valley
  • South Burnett
  • Southern Downs
  • Somerset
  • Toowoomba
  • Goondiwindi

Patient Eligibility

Eligible patients will not be required to have a diagnosed mental illness or Mental Health Treatment Plan in order to access these services.

MBS Items Quick Guide for Mental Health Drought Relief

We have compiled a MBS Items Quick Guide for Mental Health Drought Relief outlining the relevant MBS Item numbers and eligibility.

You can view this document here

Healthdirect Australia

Healthdirect Australia are offering Video Call at no charge to GPs and practices wishing to access the new MBS items for mental health via telehealth in drought affected areas (as per the eligibility outlined above). 

Healthdirect Australia conducted a webinar on Thurday, 8 November to demonstrate Healthdirect Video Call to interested GPs and practice staff providing an introduction to Healthdirect Video Call, its functionality and providing examples of its current use in health.

To find out more about Healthdirect Australia, view the webinar here

About Healthdirect Video Call

  • Video Call is a purpose built suite of services, tools and resources funded by the Commonwealth and State health departments and was developed to support telehealth/healthcare delivery in rural and remote settings. 
  • It is a browser based and can be accessed by the clinician or patient via Google Chrome or Apple Safari on a Windows/Mac PC, smartphone or tablet.
  • Video Call works on low bandwidths – 3G/4G or ADSL is sufficient.
  • It is configured to mimic clinical flow/ waiting rooms - clinicians prepare to engage with their patients as normal, except they join patients via the clinic’s online waiting area instead of its physical one.
  • Consumers attend appointments via the clinic’s website and wait in their own private room. No account, special software or dial-in details are needed.
  • Video Call is used across Australia throughout a range of health services.
  • For further information please see the flyer attached or visit the Healthdirect Video Call page.

If you have further questions, please contact Sam Georgy, on 0451 076 820.

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