Virtual Consultations are generally regarded as contact with patients or the provision of services to patients that are not face-to-face or in the physical presence of the patient. Virtual Consultations may be conducted by telephone, email, internet, webcam or by any other non face-to-face medium.
ANTA Policy on Virtual Consultations:
- Practitioners must be aware that when providing any services or information via telephone, email, website, webcam or by any other face-to-face medium, the absence of a face-to-face meeting or physical assessment/examination means that critical clinical information necessary for safe and efficacious treatment is unavailable. Practitioners must therefore act within the limitations of the non face-to-face medium being used and must also refrain from prescribing medication.
- A Virtual Consultation should not interfere with the basic principles of the practitioner-patient relationship, consisting of independence of clinical assessment and judgement, mutual respect, patient autonomy and confidentiality.
- Virtual Consultations should not be used as a substitute for personal face-to-face consultations.
- Practitioners should ensure any information received from patients or provided to patients using telephone, email, internet, webcams or other non face-to-face medium is kept confidential and recorded in patient records.
- Practitioners should ensure and be certain any information received from patients or provided to patients using telephone, email, internet, webcams or other non face-to-face mediums is received from or provided to the specific relevant patient.
- Members should notify patients that Health Funds as a general rule do not pay benefits for virtual consultations and advise patients to contact their health fund if they have any questions or require any further information.
Health Funds and Virtual Consultations:
ANTA has consulted with health funds to obtain their policies and feedback on virtual consultations.
- Health Funds have advised they have policies outlining their position on virtual consultations and face-to-face consultations. Information regarding face-to-face consultations is outlined in respective health fund's terms and conditions documents which, in many instances, can be accessed from health fund websites.
- Health Funds as a general rule and in many cases as a claims rule, do not pay benefits to their members for consultations or services that are not face-to-face or in the physical presence of a practitioner.
- Health Funds as a general rule and in cases as a claims rule, will only pay benefits in respect of consultations provided on a face-to-face basis in the presence of the patient.
Follow-up Services after a Face-to-Face Consultation:
From time to time, contact between practitioner and patient will take place via a non face-to-face medium (virtual consultation) as a follow up after a face-to-face consultation.
- As a guide, follow up services are generally regarded by health funds as part of the original face-to-face consultation fee and health funds generally do not pay benefits for non face-to-face follow up services.
- Practitioners who charge patients for follow up services that are not face-to-face should make patients aware that health funds as a general rule and claims rule do not pay benefits for non face-to-face follow up services.
- Follow up consultations that are face-to-face in the presence of a patient are generally regarded as payable benefits by health funds, if conducted within the terms and conditions of the respective health fund.
Professional Indemnity Insurance Cover for Virtual Consultations:
Most professional indemnity insurers do not automatically cover all situations and circumstances regarding virtual consultations. In some instances insurers will agree to cover some virtual consultations. Insurers may also require additional information to ascertain if they will provide cover for virtual consultations.
Circumstances can vary significantly with virtual consultations and practitioners should not assume virtual consultations are covered under their insurance policy. Practitioners should contact their insurer to confirm and verify cover for virtual consultations.
Health Information and Technology:
Advances in technology have provided pathways for the public to obtain information on a vast number of topics including health.
Technology has provided an efficient method for the public to improve their knowledge and understanding on a range of health areas including:
- health services available
- health information resources
- health systems
- health insurance
- health conditions and treatment options
- maintaining healthy lifestyles
- health management
- involvement in health decision making
A significant amount of information regarding natural therapies and health is available via websites, emails and other electronic sources. These resources can be effective in assisting the public to make informed decisions about their health, health management and lifestyles.
Whilst this information can assist the public in improving their knowledge of natural therapies and managing their health, it should not be regarded as a substitute for face-to-face consultations with an accredited ANTA member.