Government announces $699M expansion of telehealth services

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: John Veage

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: John Veage

Phone consultations with doctors are being strongly encouraged where possible under a $699 million expansion of telehealth services, starting today (Monday).

The program, which is now available to all Australians in any location, allows people to have a phone consultation with a GP, specialist or allied health professional.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the "radical transformation" of the program.

They said the Medicare bulk billing payment to doctors for both telehealth and face-to-face GP consultations would be doubled.

The aim to is to take pressure off hospital emergency departments and limit unnecessary exposure of patients and health professionals to COVID-19.

The government acknowledged telehealth is not appropriate in all circumstances and asked people to to call their doctor to discuss.

"We are asking Australians to stay home, particularly older Australians, even more so," Mr Morrison said.

"And we want to ensure that they can continue to get access to healthcare and health advice and support from GPs, which is why this measure is being put in place."

A $74 million boost for mental health support services was also announced.

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