Medicare-subsidised palliative medicine attendance and case conference services

This chapter provides information related to Medicare-subsidised palliative medicine attendance and case conference services provided by palliative medicine physicians or specialists and the characteristics of people who received them over the period 2013–14 to 2022–23. Further information about how these services are identified through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) data is provided in Technical information: Data sources – May release.

The information in this chapter was last updated in May 2024.

Key points

In 2022–23, for MBS-subsidised palliative medicine attendance and case conference services provided by palliative medicine physicians or specialists:

  • 13,900 people received these services, at a national rate of 53 people per 100,000 population
  • 66,300 services were provided, at an average of 4.8 services per person
  • 3 in 4 (77%) were provided to people aged 65 and over, including 21% for those aged 85 and over
  • those living in Major cities were about 5 times as likely to receive these services as those living in Remote and very remote areas (59 compared with 12 people per 100,000 population, respectively)
  • 4 in 5 services (83% or 55,200) were for attendances in a consulting room or hospital, 3.8% (2,500) were for attendances in other settings and 13% (8,700) were for case conferences.

Between 2013–14 and 2018–19, the number of palliative medicine attendance and case conference services increased by 26% (71,900 to 90,600) and then declined by 27% (90,600 to 66,300) over the next 4 years to 2022–23. This was broadly consistent with the pattern observed for the number of people receiving these services over the same period – increasing by 33% (12,300 to 16,500) between 2013–14 and 2018–19 before declining by 15% in the following 4 years to 2022–23 (16,500 to 13,900).

Table 1: Key concepts in this chapter
Key conceptDescription

Attendance at person’s place of residence

A professional attendance in the patient’s home, residential aged care facility (other than consulting rooms within a residential aged care facility), or other institution by a specialist, or consultant physician, in the speciality of palliative medicine following referral by a referring practitioner.

Palliative medicine

Palliative medicine is defined as the specialist care of people with terminal illnesses and chronic health conditions in community, hospital, and hospice settings. Palliative medicine physicians work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team of health professionals to provide end-of-life care, provide relief from pain and symptoms of illness, and optimise the quality of life for a patient. Palliative medicine treats the physical aspects of illness, but also integrates psychological and spiritual facets of patient care.

Palliative medicine physician/ specialist

Medical practitioner who, to be eligible for payment of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) subsidies for palliative care services, must be a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians who has completed the College training program in palliative medicine, or a Fellow of the Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine, or a Fellow of both.

Specialist attendance

A specialist attendance usually requires a referral from a general practitioner. A specialist attendance is a referred patient-doctor encounter (with Medicare funding benefits), such as a visit, consultation, and attendance (including a telehealth) with a medical practitioner who has been recognised as a specialist or consultant physician for the purposes of Medicare benefits.