Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients

Page last updated: 01 July 2021

A specific annual health check is available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A good health check:

  • is useful to the patient and family
  • identifies health needs, including patient health goals and priorities
  • supports families to take charge of their health and wellbeing
  • provides a framework for primary and secondary disease prevention through healthcare advice, risk assessment and other measures
  • is provided by the regular healthcare provider
  • includes a plan for follow-up of identified health needs, priorities and goals.

Eligibility for health checks

  • Patients who self-identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander are eligible
  • They are available annually, with a minimum claim period of nine (9) months.
  • After a health check patients are eligible for up to ten (10) follow up services under MBS item 10987
  • Both MBS items 715 and 10987 can be bulk billed
  • From 10 December 2020, health checks can be delivered in Residential Aged Care Facilities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents. For more information about new MBS items for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in an Aged Care Facility can be found online.

Doing health checks with your patients

A health check should include an assessment of the patient’s physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

With support from the Department of Health, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have reviewed and updated the existing health check templates. The purpose of the templates is to provide a high quality assessment tool to health professionals. These templates may be found on the RACGP's website.

These templates support:

  • inclusion of and increased emphasis on patient priorities and goals
  • consistent age-appropriate evidence-based elements
  • greater inclusion of the determinants of health
  • prompts to support follow-up of identified health needs

A Practice Nurse, Aboriginal Health Worker or Aboriginal Health Practitioner may assist with initial tests and medical history. A General Practitioner delivers the final assessment and recommends appropriate follow up care.

Telehealth health checks

Health checks can be offered via telehealth to support primary healthcare during the pandemic. There are particular considerations for a health check via telehealth – NACCHO and the RACGP have developed a resource to support your team with considerations for a health check via telehealth, which can be found online.

Follow up care

Follow up is really important after a health check. The health check can support patients and healthcare teams to identify a strategy for the patient’s good health. This could include follow up services or referrals. It may also include the individual actions the patient, or parent/carer, can take. 10 follow up items are claimable, per patient, per year.

This can include:

  • further examinations
  • access to counselling and lifestyle activities
  • prevention services for chronic conditions
  • clinical progress checks.
  • Patients must have completed a health check to be eligible to claim 10987 follow up items. Patients may also be eligible for lower price or free prescription medicines. Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment information is available on the PBS website or through the enquiry line on 1800 222 032.

Closing the Gap PBS co-payment

Patients may also be eligible for the Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment Measure. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people with a chronic disease (or at risk of a chronic disease) are eligible. It provides prescription medication at a lower price, or free of charge with a Health Care Card. Information is available on the PBS Online website, DHS website, or through the enquiry line on 1800 222 032.

Resources and further information

Resources are available for patients and health practitioners to download or order

Animation

Interview with Dr Mark Wenitong
Transcript Interview with Dr Mark Wenitong (Other 5 KB)

The below resources are also available to assist practices to promote the health check. The poster templates can be edited to suit the practice’s needs, while the social media guidance provides tips on how to engage online audiences.

Poster Templates

Social Media Resources

Clinical guidance on delivering a health assessment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is available from the RACGPs website.

To order resources, please email indigenousphcpolicy@health.gov.au.

Medicare Liaison Officers

Medicare Liaison Officers undertake cultural training. They work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health services to:

  • provide information about MBS items available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients;
  • provide training to health service staff about Indigenous health care plans;
  • increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's enrolments in Medicare;
  • ensure correct claiming of Medicare benefits;
  • provide support and advice about new Medicare initiatives; and
  • represent and promote Medicare programs and services at local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander forums and events.

The Services Australia website contains further information about Medicare Liaison officers. This includes a list of MBS items for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.