Australia working towards ‘permanent’ telehealth (US$ 76 million) - as part of an investment in the country’s primary care system ($220 million)

Over 16 million Australians have also received subsidised telehealth support since last year.

HealthCare IT News
Adam Ang
December 13, 2021

The Australian government has set aside A$106 million ($76 million) over four years to support what it calls “permanent” telehealth, which will ensure flexibility in healthcare delivery and continuous health consultations via phone or online.


Telehealth, according to the federal government, has been “transformational” to the delivery of healthcare and “underpinned much” of its COVID-19 response. 

“[Telehealth] has played a critical role in ensuring the continuity of care for hundreds of thousands of Australian patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health of patients and health professionals,” a government statement read.

Since last year March, over 16 million patients have received over 80 million COVID-19 telehealth services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). 

Around 89,000 providers are now using telehealth services.

The telehealth investment includes A$31.8 million ($22.8 million) for the Workforce Incentive Programme which will provide additional funding to general practices by adding telehealth items in the calculation of Standard Whole Patient Equivalent.

For Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO of telemedicine company Coviu, the permanent changes to telehealth is “long overdue,” although it demonstrates the government’s commitment to the future of the country’s digital healthcare system. 

The company has been pressing for more digital capability in the healthcare system for many years.

The changes, she said in a separate statement, empower clinicians as it means having the “choice to work from home, service patients without geographical limitations or become sub-specialists in a particular area of interest”.

“The permanent changes validate the critical role telehealth services have played during the pandemic and will continue to play in creating a more equitable and accessible healthcare system for all Australians, in both regional and urban areas,” Dr Pfeiffer said.


Earlier this year, the government extended its provision of telehealth services until yearend from June. It has infused A$114 million ($88 million) more funding for this purpose under the 2021–22 Budget.

The latest telehealth budget is part of a A$308.6 million ($220 million) investment in the country’s primary care system

It includes the following:

  • A$58.8 million ($42 million) to extend the provision of subsidised mental health support to December 2022;
  • A$41.2 million ($30 million) to incentivise doctors and nurses to work in rural and regional areas;
  • A$77 million ($55 million) to add new tests and treatments — including those for heart and kidney conditions — to the MBS, as well as enhance access to allied health services and wound care; and
  • A$25.6 million ($18 million) for COVID-19 efforts, including the creation of a new MBS item allowing health professionals to conduct COVID-19 Vaccine Suitability Assessment in a patient’s home without GP supervision; increase in funding for the Primary Health Networks Vulnerable Vaccination Programme; and extended operation of the Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics.

Originally published at on December 13, 2021.

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