Greatly increased Victorian outpatient private psychiatric care during the COVID-19 pandemic: new MBS-telehealth-item and face-to-face psychiatrist office-based services from April-September 2020.

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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 telehealth, and face-to-face consultations for April-September 2020 for the state of Victoria, which experienced two consecutive waves of COVID-19. We compare these to the same 6 months in 2019.MBS-item-consultation data were extracted for video, telephone and face-to-face consultations with a psychiatrist for April-September 2020 and compared to face-to-face consultations in the same period of 2019 Victoria-wide, and for all of Australia.Total Victorian psychiatry consultations (telehealth and face-to-face) rose by 19% in April-September 2020 compared to 2019, with telehealth comprising 73% of this total. Victoria’s increase in total psychiatry consultations was 5% higher than the all-Australian increase. Face-to-face consultations in April-September 2020 were only 46% of the comparative 2019 consultations. Consultations of less than 15 min duration (87% telephone and 13% video) tripled in April-September 2020, compared to the same period last year. Video consultations comprised 41% of total telehealth provision: these were used mainly for new patient assessments and longer consultations.During the pandemic, Victorian private psychiatrists used COVID-19-MBS-telehealth-items to substantially increase the number of total patient care consultations for 2020 compared to 2019.

View the full article @ Australasian psychiatry : bulletin of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
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Authors: Jeffrey C L Looi, Stephen Allison, Stephen R Kisely, William Pring, Rebecca E Reay, Tarun Bastiampillai