Phone consultations

Phone consultation or video consultation?

'Telehealth' consultations can be by video or by phone. The GP Colleges, Medical Defence Organisations, and Medicare recommend video in preference to phone.

Telephone consultations are only eligible for a Medicare benefit (or rebate) if video is 'unavailable'.

Dr Baird prefers video to phone for consultations with patients for the following reasons:

  • Seeing the patient enhances rapport, and enables facial expressions and body language to be observed

  • Clinical assessment is superior with video (general appearance, limited physical examination is possible by observation)

  • Clinical management is superior with video (explanation, use of notes/diagrams)

  • Many patients prefer to see the doctor whom they are consulting (may improve trust, confidence, understanding, and satisfaction with the consultation)

  • Doctor and patient can exchange messages, files, and photos/images securely during the 'video call'

  • The doctor can examine you by observation (eg appearance, breathing rate, movements, spots and rashes)

  • You can provide self-measurements (eg temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose, data from smartphone apps)

  • A support person (friend, relative) can be present in the video consultation, either with you in your room, or somewhere else

  • Video consultations are suitable for patients of all ages. If the patient is a child, a parent must be present with the child (except if the child is deemed to be a ‘mature minor’)

  • In contrast, a consultation by phone is limited to communication by voice - which may be satisfactory for some medical problems

How to arrange a phone consultation

  • A phone consultation is instead of a video consultation or instead of a face-to-face in person consultation at the Clinic.

  • Please phone Elwood Family Clinic (9531 6766) to book an appointment for a phone consultation.

  • Please confirm your phone number for the phone consultation.

  • Dr Baird will phone you at your scheduled appointment time, or as soon after your scheduled appointment time as possible, depending on earlier consultations that have run over time, emergencies, and other delays. You will get a text message to let you know if Dr Baird is running more that 10 minutes late. If Dr Baird has not phoned you within 15 minutes of your appointment time, please phone Elwood Family Clinic to find out the reason for the delay, to find out when he will be expected to phone you, and to reschedule if necessary.

  • For the phone consultation, please go to a private room where you will not be disturbed and where the consultation will not be overheard.

  • You must be alone for the consultation, unless you are attending as a parent or a carer. You must tell Dr Baird if anyone else is in the room, or if anyone else will be involved in the consultation.

  • You may use speakerphone.

  • You must not record the phone call. You must not stream the call to another device. Dr Baird will not record the phone call.

  • If the reason or reasons for the consultation are not appropriate for a phone consultation, Dr Baird will ask you to arrange a video consultation, or a face-to-face in person consultation, or to go to hospital, as appropriate.

  • The time required to address the reasons for your consultation may exceed the time booked for the consultation. In this situation, you may be asked to book another appointment to address the reasons that cannot be not covered in the consultation.

  • When the phone consultation is completed, please phone Elwood Family Clinic to make payment.

Checks before, during, and at the end of the consultation

Pre-consultation check. I will:

  • Confirm your identity (name, date of birth, Medicare number, phone number)

  • If the phone call disconnects or drops out, I will phone you back immediately. If you have not received a call within five minutes, please phone Elwood Family Clinic, (03) 9531 6766

  • Ask you to tell me your location (this is necessary, in the unlikely event that the emergency services need to be called in relation to the consultation)

  • Confirm that you are alone, and that you are in a quiet, private room (you will need to tell me if anyone else is present)

  • Obtain your consent for a consultation by phone (accepting that there are limitations to a phone consultation as there can be no physical examination)

  • Obtain your consent for the fee (if any) for the consultation

  • Ask you if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (one or more of: fever, chills, cough, breathlessness, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell), or if you have been in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or you are a contact of someone with COVID-19, then the consultation will be about assessing the severity of your respiratory illness (if any) and referring you to a COVID-19 Screening Clinic/Coronavirus Assessment Centre, or to hospital.

During the consultation, I will:

  • Refer to your medical record which is displayed on a computer in the consulting room

  • If you have the relevant equipment, I may ask you to check your temperature, your pulse, and your blood pressure.

  • Ask questions about 'red flag' symptoms which may indicate serious disease

  • Discuss with you a management plan, including 'safety nets' for actions to take in the event that symptoms get more severe, or new symptoms develop

At the end of the consultation, I will:

  • Check if there's anything else you would like to discuss (it may be necessary to arrange another consultation to address this)

  • Discuss with you a 'follow up' plan for review of your symptoms, and/or for management of any ongoing disease, and/or for preventive activities. The 'follow up' plan may involve making an appointment to see another GP for assessment and physical examination. It is essential that you follow this advice.

  • Discuss the arrangements for payment of the fee (or for bulk billing). After the consultation, please phone Elwood Family Clinic, (03) 9531 6766, to make payment (by credit card via phone), or to confirm bulk billing (for those patients who are eligible for bulk billing)

When is a phone consultation appropriate?

When is a phone consultation not appropriate?

Ensure that the consultation will be appropriate for a phone consultation.

Do not arrange a phone consultation for any of the following problems:

  • · chest pain,

  • · severe breathlessness (unable to talk normally),

  • · feeling faint,

  • · injuries

  • · bleeding,

  • · drowsiness,

  • · seizure,

  • · reduced consciousness,

  • · weakness of the face or of one or more limbs,

  • · altered speech,

  • · or a sick child or infant (one or more of: drowsy, lethargic, floppy (infant), limp (child), persistent vomiting, working hard to breathe, pale skin, blue colour around mouth, purple rash, has a fit or has had a fit).

In any of the above situations, call 000 for an ambulance.

If you have the symptoms or a respiratory infection (one or more of: cough, sore throat, breathlessness, runny nose, sneezing, pains in muscles and joints), and/or a fever (38C or above), please do not arrange a phone consultation, and please do not attend the Clinic.

These symptoms may indicate COVID-19.

Please phone the National Coronavirus Helpline, 1800 020 080, or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline, 1800 675 398, for advice on action required. Both numbers are 24/7

Here are some examples of appropriate reasons for a phone consultation (this list is not exclusive):

  • · Minor illness

  • · Repeat prescriptions

  • · Discussion about pathology and imaging reports

If you are unsure if your health issue is appropriate for a phone consultation, please phone the receptionist at Elwood Family Clinic ((+61) (03) 9531 6766) who will notify Dr Baird who will return the call either immediately (if urgent) or between consultations. If you have the symptoms of an emergency, your call will be put through to Dr Baird immediately. This applies when Dr Baird is at Elwood Family Clinic - on Monday afternoons and Saturdays only. At other times, calls of an urgent nature will be put through to one of the other GPs. For non-urgent issues, a message will be left for Dr Baird's attention when he next attends the Clinic.

Book an appointment by phone, (+61) (03) 9531 6766.

Standard consultations are up to 12 minutes. Long consultations are up to 25 minutes. When booking, please indicate if you need a standard consultation or a long consultation.

How much will I have to pay for a phone consultation?

For most patients, phone consultations will be bulk-billed, which means that they are free, with no out-of-pocket cost.

However, following changes in the Medicare Benefits Schedule, some patients will pay a fee. If a patient meets ALL of the following criteria, then the patient will pay a fee:

  • · Under the age of 70 and over the age of 15

  • · Does not have heart disease (eg heart failure, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure)

  • · Does not have respiratory disease (eg asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

  • · Does not have kidney disease (eg kidney failure)

  • · Does not have diabetes

  • · Is not pregnant

  • · Is not a First Nations' person

  • · Does not have other medical conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19

  • · Does not have a concession card (pensioner concession card, healthcare card, DVA card)

The fee for a standard phone consultation is $85. The fee for a long phone consultation is $135. The Medicare rebates are $38.20 and $73.95 respectively. Payment is by credit card by phone. The patient will be contacted by a receptionist for payment.

Prescriptions, referrals, investigation requests, and results


Prescriptions will be printed, faxed, and posted to your preferred pharmacy. A system for secure electronic transmission of prescriptions from doctors to pharmacies will be introduced at the end of May 2020.

Referrals and requests for investigations

Wherever possible, referrals will be sent to specialists and allied health professionals by secure electronic transmission. Requests for diagnostic imaging tests and pathology tests will be sent to the relevant provider either by secure electronic transmission, or, where this is not possible, either by fax or email to the provider or to you. Requests and referrals will only be sent by fax or email with your consent. By agreeing to a request or a referral being sent by fax or email, you are consenting to this.


There are two options for getting a report on the results of your pathology or diagnostic imaging tests.

    • · use ‘Ozdocsonline’. The fee is $15.

    • · arrange a video or phone consultation. This is bulk-billed

Unless advised otherwise, reports will be available three days after the test. Although I will contact you for results that require urgent action (eg follow-up appointment, referral), and for results that are clinically significant, please do not assume that ‘no news is good news’.

Clinically significant results are results that are relevant to diagnosis or treatment.

It's important for you to get your test results, and to get the interpretation and recommendations for your test results. Even if results are normal, or not clinically significant, they may provide reassurance, they may indicate the need to continue or to change treatment, and they may be relevant to your health and to your care.

Items to bring to a phone consultation (if available)


Items to bring to a phone consultation (if available)

Pen and paper

Medications (in their packs or containers)


Tape measure


Scales (to check your weight)

Blood pressure monitor

Blood glucose machine


Smartwatch (if it does physical measurements, eg pulse rate)

Can I record a phone consultation or a video consultation?

Please do not record your video consultation or your phone consultation.

It is a a legal requirement that neither you nor Dr Baird will record the consultation.

The consultation is a private conversation.

Recording a private conversation without both persons' consent is illegal.

Dr Baird does not consent to recording of the consultation.

This is standard practice for medical consultations.

This is to avoid the potential risk of a recorded consultation being used in an unauthorised way: for example, if the recording is played/shown to someone else, if the recording is posted to social media, or if the original recording is altered in some way.

Phone consultations: advantages and disadvantages

The advantages of phone consultations:

    • · Convenience:

      • o no need to travel to the Clinic

      • o no need to arrange transport (eg private car, taxi)

      • o no need to arrange assistance for those who need help to get to the Clinic (eg relative or friend)

      • o less of a problem to get medical care for those who have difficulty with mobility

      • o timesaving (no need to travel, park car, etc)

      • o can attend the phone consultation from anywhere (home, overseas, in bed, etc)

    • · Social distancing is observed as you can stay at home for the consultation

    • · No risk of transmitting infection

    • · No need for ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (which is in short supply)

    • · Simple to use a phone; no technology required (computer, webcam, apps, signing-in, etc)

The disadvantages of phone consultations:

  • · Phone connection may be poor quality

    • · Not possible to observe facial expression, or non-verbal cues

    • . No non-verbal feedback

    • · Limited social connection (voice only)

    • . Overall appearance cannot be assessed (general appearance is a key feature in determining the cause and severity of disease)

    • · Physical examination is not possible (it may be possible to assess pulse and breathing rate, but this may be inaccurate)

    • · Physical treatment is not possible (eg vaccination)

    • · Not appropriate for serious illness

    • · A follow-up face-to-face consultation with another GP may be required for physical examination or physical treatment

    • · The phone consultation may not be secure

No non-verbal cues or non-verbal feedback

No facial expression

No physical assessment (appearance etc)

Privacy and video and phone consultations

Elwood Family Clinic’s Privacy Policy applies to telehealth video and phone consultations. All other Practice Policies that pertain to face-to-face consultations at the Clinic also apply to telehealth video and phone consultations.