We must expand access to Telehealth to increase access to care for those who are bed and house bound.

In March 2020 the Federal Government provided access to a range of Medicare-subsidised services via phone or video call in response to COVID-19. This decision enabled some people with ME/CFS to access essential health services for the first time in years. Previously, these patients could not attend in-person clinics because of the severe effect on their health. Attending appointments in-person can cause people living with ME/CFS to experience post-exertional malaise for hours, days or weeks afterwards.

Telehealth works for people with ME/CFS

In June 2020, Emerge Australia conducted an online survey of 419 people to understand how ME/CFS patients and their carers experienced telehealth services. Results found the introduction of Medicare rebates had improved access to health services for 82% of respondents. Results also found telehealth worked to:

  • reduce the risk of experiencing the disabling effects of PEM
  • reduce the number of appointments cancelled at the last minute
  • alleviate burden on carers who accompany patients to-and-from appointment and increase patient independence.


While some telehealth services are now permanently accessible through Medicare, rebates for complex specialist consultations and longer telehealth consults ceased at the end of June 2022. Emerge Australia urges the Federal Government to make Medicare rebates permanently available for long and short consultations for people with chronic illnesses, who are otherwise unable to attend clinics. 

Further, Emerge Australia advocates for the requirement for an annual, face-to-face GP appointment be removed for chronically unwell people. This requirement excludes patients who are entirely bedbound – those who are most unwell – from accessing services they need. Alternatively, where an annual face-to-face appointment is required, funding should be made available for home visits to ensure patients receive the care they need. An appropriate MBS item needs to be developed for remuneration of necessary home visits as part of the Telehealth Program for bed bound and housebound patients.

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To see our other stories and read more about our push for a national post-infection disease strategy, click HERE.