Telehealth Position Statement Download the 'Telehealth Position Statement' January 2022 Statement Emerge Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement that Medicare rebates will be made permanent for some online and over-the-phone telehealth services provided by GPs, specialists and allied health practitioners. Rebates for complex specialist consultations and longer telehealth consults will be available until June 2022. Many people with ME/CFS and Long-COVID are housebound and/or bedbound. Telehealth Medicare rebates, introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, have radically improved access to vital services for people living with chronic illness. This decision will support continuity of care for patients who are unable to attend face-to-face appointments and improve health and wellbeing outcomes for many ME/CFS and Long-COVID patients. We recommend that complex and long telehealth consults are made available on a permanent basis, beyond June 2022, for people living with chronic illnesses. We also urge the Government to remove the requirement for an annual, face-to-face GP appointment. This requirement excludes patients who are entirely bedbound – those who are most unwell – from accessing services they need. Alternatively, if an annual face-to-face appointment is required, funding should be made available for home visits to ensure patients receive the care they need. Background In March 2020, in response to COVID-19, the federal government temporarily expanded the range of Medicare rebated telehealth medical services. This allowed all Australians to access a range of Medicare-subsidised services via phone or video call. After many years campaigning for telehealth to help people with ME/CFS, Emerge Australia and our community warmly welcomed this decision. In December 2021, the Federal Government announced that telehealth services would be made available through Medicare on a permanent basis. Evidence In June 2020, we conducted a survey to find the effect of telehealth services on people living with ME/CFS. We found telehealth: improved access to health services for 82 per cent of respondents was a positive experience for 90 per cent of respondents is preferred by 82 per cent of people with ME/CFS, with occasional face-to-face appointments. is the preferred option for 9 per cent of respondents – those who are most unwell – who would prefer to use telehealth all of the time. Telehealth enabled some people with ME/CFS to access essential health services for the first time in years. Previously, these people did not attend in-clinic because of the severe effect on their health. For many people living with ME/CFS, travelling and attending a medical appointment in person triggers post-exertional malaise (PEM). PEM is the worsening of a range of symptoms including fatigue and pain following physical or mental effort. Attending appointments in-person can cause people living with ME/CFS to experience PEM for hours, days or weeks afterwards. Further, for people living with ME/CFS, our survey found telehealth: Significantly reduced the risk of experiencing the disabling effects of PEM Reduced the number of appointments cancelled at the last minute, unfortunately common for people with an unpredictable and highly disabling illness Reduced burden on carers to accompany patients to-and-from appointments Increased access to healthcare when people are most unwell and otherwise unable to leave the house) Increased patient independence. You can read the full report here.