a review of changes to ECG Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items,

The Royal Australia College of GPs (RACGP) has called for the restoration of patient Medicare rebates for GPs interpreting electrocardiograms (ECGs).

In its submission to a review of changes to ECG Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items, the RACGP called for revised MBS items to be introduced without delay.

An ECG records the electrical signals in the heart and is a common test used to quickly detect heart problems and monitor heart health.

RACGP Vice President Associate Professor Michael Clements said: “The RACGP strongly opposed the removal of this subsidy for GP patients, which restricted certain ECG services to non-GP specialists and consultant physicians, with much higher costs for patients.

“We are calling for funding to be returned without delay because it’s impacting patients’ access to affordable care, timely diagnosis and management of heart conditions. This risks people’s health getting worse.

“Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. The Heart Foundation recently cited data showing preventive heart disease screening in general practice could prevent over 67,000 heart attacks, strokes, and heart related deaths over five years. We need to improve access to screening for cardiovascular diseases.

“When GPs lost this subsidy for patient care, it resulted in a 33% reduction in ECG services from GPs and other medical professionals. This may save the government’s bottom line, but it’s risking the health of our community. We know the need for ECGs is increasing due to our demographics – an ageing population and increasing rates of chronic illness.

“The reinstatement of MBS funding for GPs to provide both tracing and interpretation of ECG results is essential for the care of people experiencing or at risk of cardiac complications. Other specialists rely on the expertise of GPs to perform and interpret ECGs, such as before a patient starts stimulant medicines for ADHD treatment.

“GPs are specialists and do the same eight years medical training as any other specialist doctor. We have the skills to conduct, interpret and report on ECGs. General practice is also the most cost-effective care for patients, our health system and taxpayers.

“Reinstating patient rebates for their GP to provide both tracing and interpretation of ECGs will immediately improve access to care, as well as reduce costs for all Australians who need these services, at a time when we are still battling a cost-of-living crisis.”

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