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Updated telehealth guidelines: new requirements

Avant media

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

Updated telehealth guidelines

Avant supports the new telehealth guidelines which emphasise telehealth consultations should meet the same standards as care provided in a face-to-face consultation.

The Medical Board of Australia’s Guidelines: telehealth consultations with patients, which aim to ensure that doctors providing telehealth services engage in good medical practice, come into effect on 1 September 2023.

The telehealth guidelines complement the Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia and emphasise:

  • The standard of care provided in a telehealth consultation must be safe and as far as possible, meet the same standards of care provided in an in-person consultation.
  • Doctors should continuously assess whether using telehealth for the consultation is appropriate and put arrangements in place to transfer care to an in-person consultation, if necessary.
  • Prescribing or providing healthcare for a patient without a face-to-face consultation, whether in-person, via video or telephone, is not considered good practice and is not supported. This includes prescribing via asynchronous requests for medication by text, email, live-chat or online in the absence of a real-time consultation when the doctor has never spoken to the patient.

The telehealth guidelines clarify that in certain circumstances it may be appropriate for a patient’s usual doctor, or another medical practitioner with access to the patient’s clinical record, to prescribe without a consultation.

Avant’s submission

Avant made a submission to the consultation supporting the safe use of telehealth. We highlighted that convenience should not be given a higher priority than quality of care.

Many of our recommendations were incorporated into the guidelines. These included that telehealth consultations must be safe and should meet the same standards of care as provided in in-person consultations, and doctors should continuously assess whether a telehealth consultation is appropriate and if a direct physical examination of the patient is necessary.

In line with the updated guidelines, we also recommended expanding the guidance for doctors on providing healthcare when they have not previously consulted with a patient.

In our submission, we expressed the view that patient completion of online questionnaires/text-based chat as the sole basis to determine clinical management (including prescriptions, investigation requests and medical certificates) presents a greater risk of patient harm than telephone, video or in person consultations.

Changes to your telehealth cover

As a reminder, Avant’s cover for telehealth* that does not involve video or telephone consultations with patients has changed. The cover excludes telehealth services based on online questionnaires and/or text-based chat, unless the practitioner has access to the patient’s medical records associated with a previous in-person consultation.

Importantly, this exclusion does not apply to pathologists or radiologists, or where the patient is in hospital or in an emergency department, providing the practitioner is practising in accordance with all accreditation requirements of that hospital.

Resident medical officers and doctors in training are not covered for telehealth outside of their training program.

For more information, review the notice of change.

Resources

Disclaimers

IMPORTANT: *Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Professional indemnity insurance products are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. Please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording, available at www.avant.org.au before deciding whether to acquire, or continue to hold the product.

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 practise 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 judgement 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.

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