Coronavirus information for health professionals

Information about changes for health professionals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

New MBS attendance and telehealth items

If you provide phone and video services to patients, use the temporary MBS items.

The items can be used for the following services:

  • general attendances
  • health assessments
  • chronic disease management and team care arrangements
  • early interventions for children with autism, pervasive developmental disorder or disability
  • mental health treatment and planning
  • eating disorder treatment and management
  • focussed psychological strategies
  • pregnancy support counselling
  • antenatal and postnatal attendances.

GPs must bulk bill telehealth or phone services for:

  • concessional or vulnerable patients
  • children under 16.

Specialists, consultant physicians and allied health services can bulk bill patients at their discretion.

You need your patient’s agreement to bulk bill the items, before we can pay you the Medicare benefit.

You can get their agreement either:

  • in writing
  • by email
  • verbally during the consultation.

You must keep a record of the agreement.

You can claim the new items with existing bulk bill incentive items.

New MBS pathology items

If you perform pathology tests for COVID-19, use the new MBS pathology items.

From 1 April 2020 you can use item 69479 or 69480 for tests you perform for COVID-19. You must bulk bill these items.

If you performed tests between 13 and 31 March 2020, you can increase your Medicare benefits by claiming item 69485 and either:

  • item 69476
  • item 69477.

You don’t need to request an adjustment for claims you’ve already made.

Digital medical certificates

Using HPOS, you can lodge a Medical Certificate form (SU683) directly to your patient’s Centrelink record. This means your patient doesn’t need to visit a service centre in person.

Your patient can also use their Centrelink online account or Express Plus Centrelink app to upload their medical documents.

Read more coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for health and aged care professionals on the Department of Health website.

Continued dispensing of PBS medicine during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Under continued dispensing arrangements, you can give patients up to 1 month supply of their PBS medicine without a prescription.

This arrangement will be in place until 30 June 2020.

It applies to most PBS/RPBS medicines supplied through community pharmacies including medicines used for:

  • asthma
  • lung disease
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • mental illness.

It means patients who have ongoing medical needs can access their usual medicines at PBS prices.

You can only dispense a medicine if it hasn’t been dispensed under the arrangement in the last 12 months. You must only dispense medicines if it meets the continued dispensing guidelines.

You must be satisfied the patient’s medicinal need is urgent before dispensing and has previously been prescribed the medicine.

It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re following the necessary legislation before supplying under continued dispensing. This includes your relevant state and territory legislation.

Read more about continued dispensing on the PBS website.

Temporary arrangements to help patients receive medicines through telehealth

You can dispense medicines using a copy of a prescription sent by email, text or fax under new interim arrangements. This will help patients get their medicines while staying at home.

Prescribers can provide a digital copy of a legal paper prescription directly to the pharmacy. They cannot provide a copy to the patient themselves.

You can then dispense the required medicines using the digital copy, and deliver or post them to the patient. Patients don’t need to sign the prescription.

This arrangement will be in place until 30 September 2020.

The arrangement applies to all PBS items, except Schedule 8 and 4(D) medicines. However, you’ll need to check if they’re permitted under the relevant corresponding state or territory arrangements.

Make sure you follow the legislation when supplying under the interim arrangements. This includes the relevant state and territory legislation.

Read more about interim prescribing and dispensing arrangements on the Department of Health website.

Fast tracking electronic prescribing

The Department of Health and Australian Digital Health Agency are working to fast track the delivery of electronic prescriptions.

Electronic prescribing will allow prescribers, patients and pharmacists to use an electronic Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescription. Paper prescriptions will still be available.

Software vendors are working to update software to allow prescribers and pharmacists to use electronic prescribing.

You don’t need to do anything now. Your software developer (vendor) will contact you when an update to your software is available.

Read more about Electronic Prescribing on the Department of Health website.

Read more about Electronic Prescriptions on the Australian Digital Health Agency website.

Temporary extension of the locum tenens period

The locum tenens period for health professionals is now 12 weeks. The Department of Health has temporarily extended the period to support the COVID-19 response.

This means you can provide Medicare services from a new location, using your existing provider number if both the following apply:

  • you’re operating from the new location for less than 12 weeks
  • you’ll return to your usual location after this time.

This arrangement isn’t available for restricted health professionals. This includes doctors who need a section 19AB exemption, a 3GA placement or are participants of the OMPs program. Restricted health professionals will still need to apply for an additional provider number to get Medicare benefits from a new location.

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) sub register

Ahpra has created a sub-register to allow retired and non-practising health professionals to practice during coronavirus (COVID-19). The register will be available for 12 months from 6 April 2020.

If you want to opt out or have questions about your status on the sub-register, visit the Ahpra website.

If you’re on the sub-register, we’ll automatically reinstate your Medicare access. You must have had Medicare access at the time of your retirement or movement to non-practicing status.

You can use your existing open Medicare provider number to access Medicare benefits.

If you’re eligible for locum tenens, you can also use the extended locum tenens period. It allows you to use your existing provider numbers at different locations for up to 12 weeks.

You can manage your Medicare provider numbers using Health Professional Online Services (HPOS). You need Provider Digital Access (PRODA) account to access HPOS. If you don’t have one, register for a PRODA account and link your HPOS service.

You can also use HPOS to:

  • update your bank details
  • view the status of your Medicare provider numbers.

Read more about Ahpra’s sub register on their website.

Page last updated: 5 May 2020