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Department of Health set to address ‘10 years of reform in only 10 days’ on February 2

The Department of Health and Aged Care will address the fallout from COVID-19 emergency telehealth measures on Friday.

<p>The Department of Health and Aged Care will appear to examine the ANAO report No. 10 of 2022 – 23 Expansion of Telehealth Services report on February 2, 2024. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

The Department of Health and Aged Care will appear to examine the ANAO report No. 10 of 2022 – 23 Expansion of Telehealth Services report on February 2, 2024. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • In 2020, medical services delivered by phone and video, commonly referred to as ‘telehealth,’ were significantly expanded as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • There were 28 days between the activation of COVID-19 emergency plans and a decision to extend telehealth to the entire population
  • The expansion was described as ’10 years of reform in only 10 days’ and the ‘most significant structural reform to Medicare since it began’

 

The Department of Health and Aged Care will appear to examine the Australian National Audit Office report No. 10 of 2022 – ‘23 Expansion of Telehealth Services report on February 2, 2024.

The 76-page report found that the department had expanded telehealth to meet objectives, however, there were shortfalls in governance, risk management and evaluation.

Telehealth expansion involved amending items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, with 211 telehealth items permanently retained as of January 2022.

The public hearing is among many of the first public examinations conducted by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit on Thursday, February 1 and Friday, February 2.

The JCPAA will also hear from the Chief Executive Officer of the National Disability Insurance Agency regarding the inquiry into procurement at Services Australia and the NDIA, along with the inquiry into policy and program design and implementation.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr Julian Hill MP, highlighted the importance of starting the year strongly with the examination of the agencies involved in the current committee inquiries.

“The committee was concerned by evidence received last year in a public hearing with vendor Salesforce regarding procurement at the NDIA arising from the Watt Review. The CEO of the NDIA will appear so the committee can examine issues arising, to the extent possible, while further internal investigations continue,” Mr Hill said.

“The Secretary of the Department of Health will appear to explore issues arising from the Department of Health’s earlier appearance in 2023 and the subsequent hearing with the Australian Government Solicitor.”

“The committee will kick-off public hearings in the program and policy design implementation inquiry to investigate serious findings across the Australian Taxation Office, Home Affairs, Treasury, Agriculture, Education and Health and Aged Care to understand the larger issues at play.”

The Department of Health and Aged Care agreed with three of the recommendations and agreed in principle with a fourth — noting that the implementation of telehealth as a response to the pandemic had been a part of robust policy and advice.

The report concluded that the Department of Health had ‘[…] not adequately monitor[ed] or evaluate[d] the expansion’ and ‘did not conduct a risk assessment of integrity risks, such as provider fraud and non-compliance, prior to implementing the temporary and permanent MBS telehealth items.’

The Department of Health had concluded that a framework should be developed to evaluate the permanent inclusion of telehealth.

The Australian Digital Health Agency reported that 118.2 million telehealth services had been delivered to 18 million patients and more than 95,000 practitioners had used telehealth services between March 13, 2020 – July 31, 2022.

To learn more about how telehealth services may impact your aged care journey and stay up to date with policy amendments, along with progress on the new Aged Care Act, please visit the Ageing and Aged Care Engagement Hub online.

 

Have you used telehealth services before? If so, did you believe that the same standard of care was delivered as face-to-face support? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.

 

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