Abstract: Background In November 2017, the Australian government approved reimbursement for psychology consultations conducted by videoconference under the Better Access initiative to address inequitable access of mental health services across regions in Australia. Objective This project uses publically available activity data from the Medicare Benefits Scheme to quantify the uptake of videoconference for psychology resulting from the initiative change. Methods Data were extracted from the Medicare Benefits Schedule item reports using the item codes for standard consultations and the new item codes for videoconference consultations. Activity data from 2 years before and the first year of the change to the Better Access initiative were compared to examine the uptake of videoconference for psychology. Data were stratified by allied health profession, sex, age and state jurisdiction. Results In the 1-year period after the introduction of reimbursed videoconference consultations, approximately 5.7 million in-person consultations and 4141 videoconference consultations were funded by Medicare in Australia. Videoconference consultations comprised 0.07% of the total consultations performed in that 1-year period and showed an increased trajectory. The results can guide future research into evaluating the clinical outcomes of patients via both in-person and videoconference delivery modes. Conclusions Videoconference mental health services were used in the first year that they were available, although they only accounted for a small percentage of all mental health consultations provided by allied health professionals. This finding lays the foundation for future work which could examine the effectiveness of the scheme in reducing inequity and investigating the economic benefits of the expanded initiative to the government and society.
Wilson, Alexandra, Moretto, Nicole, Langbecker, Danette, Snoswell, Centaine L., 2020, Use of reimbursed psychology videoconference services in Australia after their introduction: An investigation using administrative data, Volume:21, Journal Article, viewed 18 February 2020, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=16398.