The Australian National Audit Office has carried out a review of the expansion of telephone services across the country by the Department of Health and Aged Care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on- in a federal audit, the department failed to manage, manage risks, and evaluate the expansion of calls.
Although it has made “significant” changes to the Medicare Benefits System (MBS), expanded health services are “only partially supported by meaningful implementation plans.”
The audit found that it did not require significant implementation decisions and programs to be documented.
It was also noted that the department did not manage implementation risks associated with temporary or permanent health changes in accordance with the risk management policy. It also did not assess the risks of integrity risks, such as supplier fraud and non-compliance, before using temporary and permanent MSS materials.
Therefore, as the ANAO, itgovernance plans to expand telehealth were “not fit for purpose.”
Meanwhile, the state audit also found that the department did not plan to monitor the operation or testing of the temporary or permanent telephone.
“Healthcare has yet to adequately assess the effectiveness of calls as an epidemic response, although some analysis of billing data and independent research have been conducted,” the report said.
It used MBS billing data to monitor telehealth use patterns with the assumption that telehealth use and payment behavior were sufficient indicators of successful telehealth implementation. And it has no performance goals.
However, the temporary and permanent expansion of MBS’s telehealth facilities was largely supported by “strong” policy advice and planning, the study emphasized.
During the response to the pandemic, the department quickly advised the minister of health on the costs and some of the benefits and risks of temporary telephone policy settings. It has also consulted and taken the views of elite organizations as advice for its short-term and long-term health policy.
Following these findings, the ANAO made a number of recommendations, which the department agreed with. This includes strengthening its regulatory systems to implement changes in the MBS, embedding management features such as reporting on implementation issues and decisions, and planning monitoring and evaluation. It also agreed to develop procedures that ensure changes to MBS are subject to systematic and documented risk assessments, and to finalize its telehealth screening programs permanently.
It agreed in principle only on the recommendation that it consider the lessons learned from introducing temporary telehealth facilities as a way to respond to the pandemic by preparing for future pandemics.
In response, the department said it “appreciates the ANAO’s findings while also recognizing the unique nature of the COVID-19 health emergency response.”
“The department has presented its objectives to keep patients able to receive health care during school closures as well as reductions [the] the risk of patient and provider referral,” it added.
In addition, it said it still needs to refine and test the compatibility of the MSS elements for telehealth and modern clinical practice through post-implementation reviews. It will be carried out by the MBS Review Advisory Committee, which will report to the government later this year.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
The ANAO conducted research to provide “assurance” about the rapid implementation of health policy changes and the transition from emergency to permanent settings. “Rapid implementation of policy changes can increase risks [the] effective and efficient delivery of public services,” he explained.
To provide greater access to health services during the ongoing global pandemic, the Australian government has launched 281 new telehealth facilities at MBS. At the end of 2021, the Ministry of Health announced that the government has set aside money for subsidized telephone equipment. forever. However, in the weeks following the announcement, the government revealed its move to end support for 128 telehealth services in Medicare as recommended by the MBS Review Taskforce. Later in November, the government restored its funding for high-cost video mental health consultations by providing additional funding in the October budget.
More recently, more than 130 million services have been provided through telephone support in Australia, based on current figures from the Department of Health.