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Telepsychiatry and face-to-face psychiatric consultations during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: patients being heard and seen

Authors
  • Looi, Jeffrey CL
  • Allison, Stephen
  • Bastiampillai, Tarun
  • Pring, William
  • Kisely, Stephen R
Type
Published Article
Journal
Australasian Psychiatry
Publisher
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2022
Volume
30
Issue
2
Pages
206–211
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/10398562211046301
PMID: 34809483
PMCID: PMC8988455
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Covid-19
License
Unknown

Abstract

Objective: The Australian federal government introduced additional Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth-items to facilitate care by private psychiatrists during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: We analysed private psychiatrists’ uptake of video and telephone-telehealth, as well as total (telehealth and face-to-face) consultations for April 2020–April 2021. We compare these to face-to-face consultations for April 2018–April 2019. MBS-Item service data were extracted for COVID-19-psychiatrist-video- and telephone-telehealth item numbers and compared with face-to-face consultations for the whole of Australia. Results: Psychiatric consultation numbers (telehealth and face-to-face) were 13% higher during the first year of the pandemic compared with 2018–2019, with telehealth accounting for 40% of this total. Face-to-face consultations were 65% of the comparative number of 2018–2019 consultations. There was substantial usage of telehealth consultations during 2020–2021. The majority of telehealth involved short telephone consultations of ⩽15–30 min, while video was used more, in longer consultations. Conclusions: Private psychiatrists and patients continued using the new telehealth-items during 2020–2021. This compensated for decreases in face-to-face consultations and resulted in an overall increase in the total patient contacts compared to 2018–2019.

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