Increased Australian outpatient private practice psychiatric care during the COVID-19 pandemic: usage of new MBS-telehealth item and face-to-face psychiatrist office-based services in Quarter 3, 2020




Looi, Jeffrey
Allison, Stephen
Bastiampillai, Tarun
Pring, William
Reay, Rebecca
Kisely, Stephen

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Sage Publications Inc


Objective: The Australian federal government introduced new COVID-19 psychiatrist Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth items to assist with providing private specialist care. We investigate private psychiatrists’ uptake of video and telephone telehealth, as well as total (telehealth and face-to-face) consultations for Quarter 3 (July–September), 2020. We compare these to the same quarter in 2019. Method: MBS-item service data were extracted for COVID-19-psychiatrist video and telephone telehealth item numbers and compared with Quarter 3 (July–September), 2019, of face-to-face consultations for the whole of Australia. Results: The number of psychiatry consultations (telehealth and face-to-face) rose during the first wave of the pandemic in Quarter 3, 2020, by 14% compared to Quarter 3, 2019, with telehealth 43% of this total. Face-to-face consultations in Quarter 3, 2020 were only 64% of the comparative number of Quarter 3, 2019 consultations. Most telehealth involved short telephone consultations of ⩽15–30 min. Video consultations comprised 42% of total telehealth provision: these were for new patient assessments and longer consultations. These figures represent increased face-to-face consultation compared to Quarter 2, 2020, with substantial maintenance of telehealth consultations. Conclusions: Private psychiatrists continued using the new COVID-19 MBS telehealth items for Quarter 3, 2020 to increase the number of patient care contacts in the context of decreased face-to-face consultations compared to 2019, but increased face-to-face consultations compared to Quarter 2, 2020.



COVID-19, telepsychiatry, telehealth, psychiatrist, private practice



Australasian Psychiatry


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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution License



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