Modernised diagnostic services for thoracic medicine

The Australian Government is making changes to Medicare-funded diagnostic services for thoracic medicine, following recommendations from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce.

Page last updated: 29 April 2018

Modernised diagnostic services for thoracic medicine (PDF 221 KB)

What are the changes?

From 1 November 2018, there will be a number of changes to diagnostic procedures on the MBS for thoracic medicine. The changes will ensure that patients have access to MBS services that reflect modern clinical practice. The changes include:
  • A new structure of MBS items for sleep studies to ensure patients with proven sleep disorders are better identified and more appropriately managed.
  • Changes to existing items for spirometry (a type of lung function test), including improved quality requirements and a new higher-rebated item to encourage the use of well performed spirometry in general practice.
  • A contemporary list of MBS funded complex lung function tests, including the introduction of two new items to reflect the level of the complexity of these tests.

Why are these changes being made?

These changes were recommended by the independent MBS Review Taskforce, following a comprehensive review of MBS services for thoracic medicine by clinicians, health system experts and consumers.

Under the existing MBS model for sleep studies, some patients are being unnecessarily referred for testing. There is also an absence of appropriate clinical review of patients before and after testing, potentially compromising quality service provision.

Spirometry has an important role in confirming the diagnosis of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other causes of airflow limitation. Currently, these conditions are both under and over-diagnosed and, as a consequence, patients may not be receiving the best medication to treat their condition. The current list of MBS complex lung function tests were introduced some time ago and have become outdated.

What does this mean for patients?

The changes will improve patient access to high quality MBS funded sleep studies, as well as reduce waiting times for patients who need an attended (laboratory-based) study to diagnose complex sleep disorders.

Patients will have access to a higher rebate for spirometry performed in the primary care setting. The increased use of well performed spirometry will help to ensure more people are correctly diagnosed and receive the appropriate treatment for their condition. Patients will continue to have access to MBS rebates for clinically relevant complex lung function tests

What does this mean for providers?

Providers can continue to perform MBS funded services for thoracic medicine, but will need to adjust their billing practices in line with the new and revised structure of items.