What is telehealth?
Telehealth refers to consultations that use technology as an alternative to in-person doctor-patient consultations, including video, internet, or phone consultations, as well as using digital images, data, including home-based patient monitoring, and remotely prescribing medications. The Medial Board of Australia supports the responsible and safe use of telehealth as an inclusive, accessible healthcare option. The guidelines have been developed to complement Good Medical Practice and outline the key steps in ensuring best practice in patient care.
What is new?
The guidelines confirm that telehealth is acknowledged as playing a role in comprehensive patient care. From covering pre-consultation must-haves to consultation and record keeping requirements, Ahpra’s guidelines provide a practical list of telehealth best practice for the entirety of the patient’s experience.
Key considerations include:
- Appropriate privacy recommendations for the remote consultation space, preparation and technology
- Patient communication and consent, including interpreter support and billing consent
- Compliance with jurisdictional legislative prescribing requirements
- Detailed documentation and record keeping including technology details
- Video consultations are preferrable telephone consultations according to the Board
- Options for the patient to attend a medical practice if a face-to-face consultation is clinically indicated
It is important to note that providing healthcare and prescriptions to patients without a direct, real-time consultation, including via text, email, live-chat or online questionnaire, is not supported by the Board.
What stays the same?
Traditional telehealth such as phone or video consultations with patients who have recently attended a medical practice, are not affected by the guidelines. Practitioners with access to a patient’s clinical record, such as in a shared practice environment, will still be able to prescribe medications without an in-person appointment. According to Board Chair Anne Tonkin, “It [prescribing] relies on a doctor’s skill and judgement, having consulted a patient, and recognises that prescription medication can cause harm when not used properly”.
The emphasis is on providing safe and reliable telehealth services, while avoiding rapid throughput services. The Board acknowledges that telehealth can greatly assist with accessible healthcare delivery, including in emergency and rural medical care, and understands that telehealth is generally most appropriate in a hybrid context of an existing clinical relationship with a patient.