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Moving with the times – a new online, member focussed AMA Fees List for 2017

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Medical fees are increasingly becoming an issue of both medical and mainstream media scrutiny. For our members, one of the challenges with fee setting has of course been the ongoing Medicare freeze – it has put pressure on practice viability, as medical practitioners bear the burden of inflation and increased costs of running practices, without the corresponding adjustment being made to the MBS and the patient rebate.

The AMA’s position has always been that medical practitioners should use their own judgement to charge an appropriate fee for a medical service.

Furthermore, the AMA takes the view that a medical practitioner should determine in each individual case what is a fair and reasonable fee – taking into account the cost of delivering the service, the circumstances of the case and the patient. There is no doubt that the cost of running medical practices varies across the country, as do overheads such as rent, electricity and insurance.

For many members, the AMA’s List of Medical Services and Fees (Fees List) is a critical aid in providing guidance on what fee to charge.

You may not be aware that the Fees List was first produced as a book in 1973, and (with the exception of 1978) has been updated yearly. In 2016 it was still provided in book form, supplemented via CD-ROM and a limited online website. 

We recognise that the Fees List remains a major member benefit. But we also know that in the 21st century, primarily making it available as a small print book is not a productive, innovative or helpful format for modern practice. As such, the AMA Board took the decision that 2017 will see the AMA Fees List become entirely digital and we will discontinue the printed book. The decision was largely influenced by the dated platform on which the Fees List is built.

However, this is not just a case of switching off the printed format.

The new online offering will be via a dedicated, new look website. It will be more user-friendly, will provide the capacity to search for a fee via a number of criteria, and will have a range of other helpful features and guidance as it matures. The Fees List will continue to be available for download, and in the existing file formats previously available via CD-ROM. For those who may wish to print parts or all of the Fees List for offline use, a PDF will continue to be available online for that purpose.

The intent for the new website is that it will be user-centred, have an intuitive navigation structure and be accessible on multiple platforms – computer or tablet. As part of this transition, we will also be investigating ways to simplify the importing capabilities into medical practice software, where possible.

The move to an online only offering will also provide the opportunity to update the Fees List throughout the year, as ongoing changes are made to the MBS. This will be important as the MBS Review rolls on, as it is likely to result in the biggest update to the MBS in decades.

The AMA is using the upgrade to introduce new purchasing options via licensing arrangements, and to open it up to those previously not able to purchase it – a major criticism of the current arrangements.

Noting that the Fees List is also the benchmark for medical fees set under various State Government regulations such as those which set the fees for workers compensation claims, we want to ensure that there are options for non-AMA member medical practitioners who may need access to particular items, from time to time, to charge for services provided to patients in these circumstances.

Of course, AMA members will continue to receive full access through the improved online format. To that end, we will be asking how you currently use the Fees List, what features you would like to see in an online offering, and other features you would like to see considered as part of the new website.

To start the conversation, please follow the link to a short survey:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/amalist

Anne Trimmer
AMA Secretary General