Refund ECG rebates for GPs: RACGP

3 minute read

The college has reiterated calls for the reinstatement of MBS item numbers for GP interpretation of ECGs, after they were defunded in 2020.

The RACGP has joined the AMA’s calls for the restoration of Medicare rebates for GPs to interpret electrocardiograms.

Following recommendations from the 2018 MBS Review Taskforce, Medicare removed ECG items 11700, 11701 and 11702 and created the new items 11704, 11705, 11714 and 11707 (trace only) in 2020.

GP claims were limited to item 11707, ultimately defunding GP interpretation of ECG results.

This left GPs to interpret for free, charge a gap fee or refer patients to specialists, AMA vice president Dr Danielle McMullen previously told The Medical Republic.

Calls to reinstate the funding, a recommendation made by the ECG Review Committee in 2022, were rejected in favour of yet another review.

In its submission to said review, the RACGP recommended that GPs, as well as all other medical practitioners, be allowed to bill item 11714 (trace and clinical note).

“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,” RACGP vice president Associate Professor Michael Clements said.

“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.”

Professor Clements said the current setup risks delaying care and worsening people’s health.

“Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia,” he said.

“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.”

 Both the AMA and the RACGP strongly opposed the defunding of GP interpretation of ECGs when it was first proposed, a move which the RACGP said increased costs for patients and put safety at risk.

“When GPs lost this subsidy for patient care, it resulted in a 33% reduction in ECG services from GPs and other medical professionals,” said Professor Clements.

“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.”

 According to Professor Clements, GPs have all the necessary skills and training to conduct, interpret and report on ECGs.

“GPs are specialists and do the same eight years medical training as any other specialist doctor. 

“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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