Open Access Research

Remunerating private psychiatrists for participating in case conferences

Jane E Pirkis1*, Alan N Headey1, Philip M Burgess2, Harvey A Whiteford2, Josh P White1 and Catherine Francis1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

2 School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

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Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2005, 2:33  doi:10.1186/1743-8462-2-33

Published: 18 December 2005

Abstract

Background

On 1 November 2000, a series of new item numbers was added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which allowed for case conferences between physicians (including psychiatrists) and other multidisciplinary providers. On 1 November 2002, an additional set of numbers was added, designed especially for use by psychiatrists. This paper reports the findings of an evaluation of these item numbers.

Results

The uptake of the item numbers in the three years post their introduction was low to moderate at best. Eighty nine psychiatrists rendered 479 case conferences at a cost to the Health Insurance Commission of $70,584. Psychiatrists who have used the item numbers are generally positive about them, as are consumers. Psychiatrists who have not used them have generally not done so because of a lack of knowledge, rather than direct opposition. The use of the item numbers is increasing over time, perhaps as psychiatrists become more aware of their existence and of their utility in maximising quality of care.

Conclusion

The case conferencing item numbers have potential, but as yet this potential is not being realised. Some small changes to the conditions associated with the use of the item numbers could assist their uptake.