Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience high rates of chronic disease. MBS item 715 or “715 health check” assists with early intervention and prevention of chronic disease. 715 Health checks are available for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Page last updated: 04 April 2019

715 health checks consider the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Health checks can be undertaken at a general practice or Aboriginal Medical Service.

Health assessments should consider the age of the patient. Templates are available for practitioners on critical elements for different age groups. Some clinical information and record systems include the templates to guide the assessment process.

Eligibility for 715 items

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander patients self-determine eligibility through identification. Assessments are available for each patient once every nine months.

Patients who complete a 715 health check are also eligible for up to 10 follow up services under MBS item 10987.

Follow up care is important for any health issues which are identified during the health check. A Practice Nurse or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker can deliver some follow up services, which will monitor progress.

Both MBS items 715 and 10987 can be bulk billed to encourage patient uptake.

Components of the health check

The 715 health check provides a general assessment of the patient’s health and wellbeing. It includes their physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

A 715 health check can take up to 60 minutes, and must include:

  1. recording a patient history and undertaking examination and investigation as required;
  2. making an overall assessment of the patient;
  3. recommending appropriate interventions;
  4. providing advice and information to the patient;
  5. keeping a record of the assessment;
  6. offering the patient a written report with recommendations; and
  7. providing the patient, or their carer, with a copy of the assessment and follow up plan.

Conducting a 715 health check

Aboriginal Medial Services, or general practice clinics can deliver a 715 health check. A 715 health check should generally be undertaken by the patient’s usual doctor, who has provided the majority of primary health care to the patient over the previous 12 months, and will likely continue to do so over the next 12 months.

Suitably qualified nurse practitioners and/or Aboriginal health workers can conduct elements of the check. This is under the direction of a medical practitioner. Medical practitioners are responsible for making the assessments and recommending follow up care.

Follow up care

Following a health check, a medical practitioner, in consultation with the patient, can develop a care plan for the good health of the patient. The plan can identify follow up services and referrals to be undertaken. This should be included in the written report offered to the patient, and/or patient’s carer following the assessment.

Up to 10 follow up items are claimable per patient, per year under MBS item 10987. This item includes:

  • further examinations identified by the health assessment
  • access to counselling and lifestyle activities
  • prevention services for chronic conditions
  • clinical progress checks.

Item 10987 follow up items are not claimable without a 715 health check completed for the patient.

For patients with a chronic disease, it may be appropriate to prepare a General Practice Management Plan (item 721) or Team Care Arrangement (item 723). If your service is registered for the Practice Incentives Program Indigenous Health Incentive, the patient may also be eligible to be registered for this program. Further information on this program can be found on the Department of Human Services website.

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 Australians’ 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 Indigenous forums and events.

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

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

Clinical guidance on delivering a health assessment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is available from the Royal Australian Clinic of General Practitioners.