Telehealth in psychiatry

COVID-19 Update

6 May 2020

We are aware that in response to COVID-19 many psychiatrists are using telehealth for the first time. Key factors to consider when using telehealth include:

  • Setting up your digital space appropriately.
  • Preparing the person having the consultation.
  • Adapting your therapeutic technique for a video consultation.
  • Managing clinical risks.
  • Capturing and recording clinical details.
  • Setting up appropriate billing and prescribing structures.

There are a range of up-to-date resources available, in addition to the below RANZCP guidelines, that may assist in up-skilling in this area.

Suggested resources include:

In Australia a list of MBS items to allow for the delivery of psychiatry services via telehealth has been released as part of the plan to fight COVID-19.

Further information in regard to how to organise billing, prescriptions, referrals, and interpreter services for COVID-19 MBS item numbers are available at: Clinical guidance during COVID-19 [Member log in required]

If you have any enquiries, please contact

RANZCP telehealth webinar: Implementing practical telehealth in psychiatry

22 April, 2020

Presenters: Professor Richard Harvey and Dr Cybele Dey

► Watch 'Implementing practical telehealth in psychiatry' 

What is telehealth in psychiatry?

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

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

Webcam and faces

Why use telehealth?

Telehealth 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 telehealth 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 telehealth 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 telehealth in psychiatry

The RANZCP has produced the following resource to help psychiatrists implement telepsychiatry:

► Technical specifications for telepsychiatry [PDF; 480 KB]

New Zealand-based psychiatrists can 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 telehealth in psychiatry. Psychiatrists should familiarise themselves with privacy principles in Australia and New Zealand, noting that the requirements are the same as for face-to-face consultations. The Australian Government Department of Health has developed a privacy checklist for telehealth services.

The RANZCP also recommends reviewing information available from your medical indemnity insurer about undertaking consultations by telehealth in psychiatry, as some insurers have recently developed policies in this area.


Presentations and webinars

Information for patients

The RANZCP has produced the following resources for patients who use telehealth in psychiatry.

Medicare and telehealth

In Australia a list of MBS items to allow for the delivery of psychiatry services via telehealth has been released as part of the plan to fight COVID-19.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item 288 also allows a psychiatrist to bill for a video consultation for people in particular circumstances 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.

The RANZCP has developed information on how to use item 288: Medicare benefits for telepsychiatry [please note that incentive payments listed under section 3 ceased in 2013-14] [PDF; 400 KB]

For descriptions of these MBS items, please refer to MBS Online. For further information on MBS items, please contact

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