Permanent Telehealth information for clients

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Introduction of permanent Telehealth Arrangements from 1 January 2022

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, consistent with whole-of-government arrangements under the Medicare Benefits Schedule, telehealth services were introduced for DVA funded general practitioner (GP), specialist, nurse practitioner, midwifery and allied health services. These arrangements are due to cease on 31 December 2021. 

On 13 December 2021, the Government announced permanent telehealth arrangements will be introduced from 1 January 2022. These arrangements will flow through to DVA health care arrangements.

Now that the risk of COVID-19 has reduced, transitioning to permanent arrangements is intended to promote high quality health care for patients while still enabling access to telehealth where clinically appropriate and consistent with whole-of-government arrangements.

Permanent telehealth arrangements will benefit DVA clients by enabling flexible access to health care delivered both in person and by telehealth services. 

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GP visits

DVA clients can continue to receive telehealth services from 1 January 2022, however are reminded of the need to have had at least one face-to-face service with their GP or another doctor at the same practice in the last 12 months.

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Medical Specialist services

DVA clients can continue to receive medical specialist telehealth services from 1 January 2022.

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Allied health services

Allied health services (except dental, optical and neuropsychology services) can continue to be delivered to DVA clients under permanent telehealth arrangements. Allied health services delivered via telehealth should achieve the same or better outcome(s) or benefit as an in-person service.

Permanent arrangements for allied telehealth services are based on the following principles:

  • Telehealth services are not intended to replace in-person services and can be provided to clients who have an established clinical relationship with the provider.
    • Telehealth services are only available for subsequent consultations – initial and extended consultations should be undertaken in person, except for allied mental health services where appropriate.
  • Telehealth services can only be provided if the full service can be delivered safely and in accordance with all relevant professional standards and clinical guidelines.
    • Telephone consultations can only be provided where videoconferencing is not available.
    • Some telehealth services, including initial mental health consultations, should only be delivered by videoconference not telephone.
    • Group therapy cannot be delivered by telehealth.
    • Services requiring specialised equipment or facilities cannot be delivered by telehealth.
    • Services requiring assessment of the client’s residence or site inspection of their home cannot be delivered by telehealth.
  • Telehealth items are also claimable for telehealth services delivered to clients in hospital or residential aged care facilities, for services not requiring prior approval.

DVA clients should note that a key change to these permanent arrangements is initial consultations are required to be delivered in person, except for allied mental health services where appropriate. Clinical research shows that telehealth is less effective for initial diagnosis but generally provides equivalent outcomes for ongoing care. However, if there are circumstances in which an initial consultation needs to be delivered by telehealth, this can be considered through DVA’s usual Prior Approval arrangements.

From 1 November 2022, DVA clients can access allied mental health services by telehealth, without the need for initial consultations to be held in person.

Initial mental health consultations can only be accessed by telehealth where the patient and provider have visibility of each other, using video conferencing technology.  This applies to psychology, clinical psychology, mental health social work and mental health occupational therapy services.  Initial telehealth consultations cannot be accessed by telephone.

Treatment cycle arrangements continue to apply for DVA clients accessing allied health services delivered by telehealth.

Permanent telehealth arrangements will be reviewed from 2023 to ensure arrangements remain appropriate and address any issues that may have arisen. 

DVA clients are reminded that referrals for allied health services can only be provided by the client’s usual GP. This means a GP (or another GP in the same practice) who:

  • has provided the majority of care to the DVA client over the previous twelve months; or
  • will provide the majority of care to the DVA client over the next twelve months.

Telehealth or online GP services which have not provided regular clinical care or at least one in-person service to the DVA client are not able to issue valid referrals for DVA-funded allied health services.

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Need more information?

For more information about what the changes to telehealth services means for veterans and their families, contact DVA on 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372).

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