A multi-million dollar financial incentive programme to encourage Australian clinicians to start telehealth schemes is due to end in June. Launched as a four-year programme in July 2011, the Telehealth On-Board Incentive Programme was funded from a wider AU$620 million telehealth initiative, but the end of the programme was brought forward to June 2014.
The Medicare rebates and financial incentives for specialist video consultations were introduced to address some of the barriers to accessing medical services, particularly specialist services, for Australians in remote, regional and outer metropolitan areas. The Telehealth On-Board incentive was one of five financial incentives in the wider initiative and encouraged and supported the initial and ongoing provision of telehealth services to eligible patients by practitioners.
The flat rate incentive would have covered any initial set up costs such as equipment, but Pulse+It reports that anecdotal evidence points to majority of practitioners using Skype. Nevertheless, this is a very well thought out programme, with incentives for setting up the telehealth facility and other incentives for continued operation.
The statistics provided by the Department of Health for the initial two and a quarter years of the programme shows the increasing take up of the telehealth service reaching a total of 120,000 consultation at the end of Sep 2013 provided by 8,800 providers to 47,000 patients. Top of the types of consultations is telepsychiatry.
More information is available in the Australian Government Department of Health website on telehealth.