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A big step closer to public TMS funding in Australia

The Federal Government Medicare Services Advisory Commitee in Australia is now recommending public funding of TMS for depression treatment.

TMS Clinics Australia

Some things are worth fighting for – even though it may take years. Six years to be exact. We are talking about the recent recommendation by the Federal Government Medicare Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) for public funding of TMS for depression treatment in Australia. Paul Fitzgerald, Professor of Psychiatry at Epworth Healthcare, Monash University and Director of the Epworth Centre for Innovation in Mental Health and co-founder of TMS Clinics Australia, foresees that this fund- ing will help provide access for patients who otherwise would not be likely to receive treatment and would thus ultimately remain ill and disabled over very long periods of time.

“We worked hard for years to achieve this as we clearly felt that funding through Medicare was critically required to allow a fair and equitable access to treatment,” says Paul Fitzgerald who expects the funding to be implemented in late 2020 or 2021. “Public funding will certainly enhance uptake of the treatment. Even if the cost of treatment may not be fully covered, it will substantially reduce the economic burden on patients and thus enhance access.”

From research to treatment

Paul Fitzgerald’s research has, from early on, been characterized by a significant translational focus. This has, among other things, led to the establishment of an educational program to train psychiatrists and nurses in the clinical appli- cations and techniques of TMS. To date, more than 500 have completed the course. Furthermore, Professor Fitzgerald is the Medical Director of TMS Clinics Australia, which he co-founded with Dr. Ted Cassidy, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer.

Rapid growth

TMS Clinics Australia has experienced a solid growth over the years and according to Ted Cassidy this development has not slowed down one bit; on the contrary it seems to be going even faster: “In 18 months we have tripled the number of patients we treat each year. Several of our clinics are running at full capacity so we plan to add an extra chair in some of them and to add many more clinics in the next six months.” Currently, TMS Clinics Australia has 11 clinics spread over 3 states. Today, 2/3 of the patients are funded through their workplace accident insurance, private health insurance, or are veterans (who receive free health care). In Australia, about 50% of the population has private health insurance, but not all cover TMS.

Public funding provides access to all

In spite of the lack of public funding thus far, the degree of TMS awareness in Australia is considered “reasonable, and growing slowly over time,” says Paul Fitzgerald. He further explains that the knowledge does vary from state to state
– even from city to city – and clearly depends on how long existing services have been running in a particular location.

Online presence and education attract patients

To raise awareness, TMS Clinics Australia uses social media, Google Maps, and Yelp, and hosts medical education meet- ings. “Our new website and this online presence actually re- assured patients and comforted them with the idea of trying this new treatment. Interestingly, patients (and their loved ones) just want to know that TMS is not ECT and that side effects are very few and tolerable,” says Ted Cassidy.

Moving from inpatient to outpatient funding

Today, most patients in Australia are admitted to TMS through inpatient clinical programs as part of their treatment plan. With a public funding of TMS, patients will no longer need to seek hospital admission to get TMS. This is a big advantage, according to Paul Fitzgerald: “As well as being economically inefficient, inpatient treatment is also associat- ed with suboptimal aspects in terms of treatment response: patients are disengaged from families and their typical environment and treatment courses are often curtailed to fit within hospital admission time limits. Third-party funders of treatment are, fortunately, recognizing the need to provide more balanced outpatient funding of TMS but for the vast majority of patients, more widespread funding is required to ensure equitable and timely access,” says Paul Fitzgerald. For patients in Australia suffering from depression, the access to TMS now appears to be on the way very soon.


The article was originally printed in TMS Update by MagVenture Issue 1. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MagVenture or any of its affiliates. The usage of rTMS for any other purpose than the cleared indication, in the country in which the product is intended to be used, is considered investigational.

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