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Telehealth in psychiatry

Telepsychiatry is a consultation between a patient and a psychiatrist conducted via video-conference.

Provided here are resources for psychiatrists using telepsychiatry in their practice, including information on setting up a telepsychiatry system.

Webcam and faces

Why use telepsychiatry?

Telepsychiatry can greatly improve access to psychiatric services for people in rural and remote areas, and in other situations where face-to-face consultations are impracticable.

A number of studies have demonstrated that telepsychiatry can be as effective as face-to-face consultations in achieving improved health outcomes.

Implementing telepsychiatry requires a planned and coordinated approach, but the technical set-up need not be difficult or expensive.

In Australia, Medicare rebates are available for telepsychiatry consultations.

Professional standards

These documents outline the standards expected of doctors practising in Australia and New Zealand. They apply to doctors registered in Australia and New Zealand who practise telehealth, as well as to doctors registered overseas who provide telehealth services to patients in Australia or New Zealand.

Setting up and using telepsychiatry

The RANZCP has produced the following resources to help psychiatrists implement telepsychiatry.

Development of these materials was funded by the Australian Government, so they focus on the Australian context. The basic principles are similar in Australia and New Zealand, but legislative and other environmental requirements may differ.

New Zealand-based psychiatrists can also refer to information from the New Zealand Telehealth Resource Centre and the New Zealand Telehealth Forum, which provide advice on protocols, guidelines and standards for New Zealand practitioners.

Maintaining privacy and confidentiality is critical when undertaking consultations by telepsychiatry. Psychiatrists should familiarise themselves with privacy principles in Australia and New Zealand. The RANZCP also recommends that psychiatrists confirm with their medical indemnity insurer that they are covered prior to undertaking consultations by telepsychiatry, as some insurers have recently developed policies in this area.

E-learning

Presentations and webinars

Information for patients

The RANZCP has produced the following resources for patients who use telepsychiatry.

To find a psychiatrist who offers telepsychiatry in Australia, in the Find a Psychiatrist directory, enter a location, then click on 'Advanced Search' and under 'Practice details', select ‘Offers telepsychiatry’.

Medicare and telepsychiatry

In Australia, Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item 288 allows a psychiatrist to bill for a video consultation when using item numbers 291, 293, 296, 300, 302, 304, 306, 308, 310, 312, 314, 316, 318, 319, 348, 350 or 352.

Item 288 can be used if the attendance is by video-conference and:

  • the patient is not currently admitted to hospital; and
  • the patient meets one of these requirements:
    • is at least 15 km by road from the psychiatrist and does not live in a major city (is within a telehealth eligible area)
    • lives in a residential care service; or
    • is a patient of an Aboriginal Medical Service or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service for which a direction made under subsection 19 (2) of the Act applies.

For descriptions of these MBS items, please refer to MBS Online. For further information on MBS items, please contact askmbs@humanservices.gov.au.