Telehealth services will be made permanent after the federal government announced $308.6 million in funding for primary healthcare services.
Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said the virtual service would become a permanent feature of the primary healthcare system with $106 million in funding made available over the next four years.
Mr Hunt said the decision would provide flexibility to patients and doctors for the delivery of healthcare, allowing GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals to continue consultations by phone or online.
He said the service had played a critical role in providing care for hundreds of thousands of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 89,000 providers using telehealth services.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said the announcement marked a wonderful day in the history of general practice.
"The era-defining episode of COVID has served to highlight just how intertwined health service delivery is with the health of the nation," she said.
"Telehealth has been a remarkable and innovative solution which enabled our country to stay as safe as possible."
Dr Price said telehealth would continue to help deliver sorely needed services to regional and rural Australians.
Tasmanian Liberal MHR Bridget Archer said while accessibility to GP services was an issue she would continue to fight for, the introduction of permanent telehealth services was welcome.
"The use of telehealth services throughout the COVID pandemic demonstrated its flexibility and convenience and, from my many discussions with our community, I know the introduction of telehealth at the beginning of the pandemic had an immediate, positive impact particularly in more remote and rural areas where transport or other accessibility issues are an on-going challenge," she said.
Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley said the federal government had repeatedly delayed continuing telehealth services, and hoped the government understood the importance of the service - ensuring it would operate indefinitely.
Monday's announcement also included a swath of funding to a range of primary healthcare services including $58.8 million to support and improve access to mental health services across Australia.
$41.2 million was provided for regional and rural services, with $77 million allocated to improve access to Medicare and $25.6 million provided for primary care to continue fighting COVID-19.