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By Optometry Australia

Following a process that commenced in 2015, the Medicare Benefits Schedule Taskforce has concluded its review of more than 5,700 Medicare items.

The Taskforce’s final reports include optometry and ophthalmology items and these detailed recommendations are now under consideration by the Government.

The Taskforce has said that its recommendations are intended to ’encourage best practice, improve patient care and safety, and ensure that MBS services provide value for the patient and the healthcare system, modernising item descriptors to reflect best practice; and providing clinical guidance for appropriate item use through explanatory notes.’

The Optometry Clinical Committee, which formed part of the Taskforce, was convened in 2019 and was Chaired by NSW optometrist Phil Anderson. It has been put together by the Government in order to advise the Taskforce.

Optometry Australia’s CEO Lyn Brodie said, ’intensive work over the long period of the review was undertaken by the organisation to provide input into the review and to advocate for changes that were advised on by a group of experienced members.’

‘Optometry Australia is very pleased that the Committee’s recommendations to the Taskforce reflected many of the changes that we have been advocating’.

 

Taskforce endorses 11 of 14 recommendations

The Taskforce endorsed 11 of the 14 recommendations made by the Committee, including:

  • consolidation of items 10912 and 10913 to one item; and
  • amendment of items 10940 and 10941 to allow the service to be performed by a suitably qualified person on behalf of the billing optometrist.

The Taskforce did not support the Committee’s recommendation to change the frequency for comprehensive eye exams from three years to two years for people aged between 50 and 64 years of age finding that there was no clear justification for this increased frequency.

Optometry Australia’s General Manager, Policy Skye Cappuccio said that ‘while there are some positives in the recommendations, it is disappointing that the Taskforce didn’t support the recommendation to increase how often middle-aged Australians can access a rebate for an initial comprehensive consultation.’

‘We did provide a comprehensive review of the evidence and we felt that it made a strong case for this change but this evidence does not seem to have been recognised by the Taskforce’.

 

Telehealth items endorsed

The Taskforce did endorse all of the recommendations from the Ophthalmology Committee, including the establishment of two new telehealth items:

  • one for a patient only consult on referral from optometry only; and
  • one for provision of management advice via report to optometrist and patient.

Ms Brodie said, ‘Optometry Australia has been advocating for the latter as an important support for optometrists and ophthalmologists to work collaboratively to ensure patients can have ready access to the care they need’.

 

Potential role of optometry in intravitreal treatment provision recognised

A key additional recommendation from the Taskforce was to review the ophthalmology workforce and its capacity to meet community need and relatedly, to ’assess the expansion of intravitreal injections to include appropriately trained nurse practitioners, optometrists and general practitioners, working to updated guidelines.’

Optometry Australia has been advocating for approaches to be piloted that enable optometrists to support ophthalmologists in providing treatment via intravitreal injection, as a mechanism for supporting better patient access.

’We were most pleased to see this recommendation as we believe that optometry working with ophthalmology can help support better access to treatment via intravitreal injection which can be critical to saving people’s sight.

‘We will continue to seek RANZCO’s support to work collaboratively on models of care that utilise appropriately trained optometrists in the provision of this treatment’ added Skye Cappuccio.

 

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