Help with MBS Online file formats

Information to assist with the types of files used on MBS Online.

Page last updated: 10 August 2020

File Formats

Most documents on MBS Online are available in PDF (Portable Document Format), DOCX (Word document, XML (Extensible Markup Language) or TXT (Text file).

PDF documents

MBS Online releases PDFs for commonly used for documents like versions of the MBS and factsheets.

Because PDFs are a standardised format, there are a considerable number of apps out there that can open PDFs. Web browsers, Adobe's official Acrobat Reader, third-party apps, and even word processing apps.

Viewing PDFs

If you are reading this FAQ article, the web browser you are using is capable of viewing a PDF, and doing so is mostly the same on macOS and Windows. If you do not have another app that can read PDFs, the chances are that your browser is already the default app and you can double-click the file to open it.

If not, right-click the file, point to the "Open With" menu, and then click your favourite browser.

Adobe's Acrobat Reader is the official tool for reading PDFs. It is free, and it's available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

After installing Acrobat Reader, all you have to do is double-click on any PDF you want to open. There are also many third-party apps for viewing PDF files.

DOCX documents

MBS Online releases DOCXs for commonly used for documents like versions of the MBS and factsheets.

Starting in 2007 with the updated version of Microsoft Word (and Microsoft Office), the default save word format moved from DOC to DOCX. The new X stands for the Office Open XML standard. The DOCX format creates smaller, lighter files that are easier to read and transfer. The Office Open XML standard enables any full-featured word processor, including online tools like Google Docs, to read the document.

XML Files

MBS Online releases XML files as a file which contains the most recent version of the current items for the MBS. The XML is a text file that use custom tags to describe the structure and other features of the document.

The XML file is primarily used by software packages to update their MBS information.

It is possible to open the XML in a text editor or spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

There is further information on the how do I use the XML file page.

ASCII and TXT documents

ASCII file

ASCII files ceased being released on MBS Online from July 2015. They were replaced by the XML file. The ASCII files were a text based file that contained the most recent information about MBS items.

MBS Item Map file

Since 1991, the Medicare Item Map (the Item Map) has been updated on an ongoing basis with changes to the MBS. It is a text file that contains both historical and current MBS items and includes approximately 13,500 items of which approximately 6,000 items are current.

The Item Map supports analysis of the MBS by mapping the original item claimed ('Item') to the most recent comparable item ('Mapped Item'). Using the Item Map ensures the system will find all occurrences of comparable historical items, even if an item has been reused.

Further information on this file is contained in the MBS Historical Information Documentation on the Downloads page.

MBS Item Descriptor file

Since 1992, the published MBS has been created by a database application and item numbers in force have been captured electronically. Some descriptions produced by the database do not contain the full context as given in legislation as they were written for the published book layout, which includes notes that are not captured in the individual descriptions.

Item descriptions in force prior to 1992 were not included in the database or maintained in consistent electronic format. As the majority of MBS items were renumbered in 1991 a very large number of item descriptions were affected. The historical file includes descriptions for these historical items, based on historical MBS publications and legislation. The file includes the first use of ‘reused’ items. However, it is not a full reconstruction of all amendments to descriptions.

Description variations for an item may be missing and description start dates may in some cases be earlier than those listed.

As a result, the historical item description file has limitations, particularly for those item numbers that ceased being used prior to 1992. As changes to MBS item descriptions are usually incremental, the nature of services provided under a given item number at different points in time will in most cases be very similar.

Further information on this file is contained in the MBS Historical Information Documentation on the Downloads page.

ReUse Item file

The reuse file is a text file that contains a small number of items were ceased then later reused for a different service type. The nature of services under these item numbers differs widely between the earlier and later periods of use.

Only information relating to the most recent use of these items is included in the Medicare Item Map. The equivalent information relating to the first use is included in the Reuse Item Map. No item number has been used more than twice since the inception of Medicare.

Further information on this file is contained in the MBS Historical Information Documentation on the Downloads page.

RVG file

The RVG file is a text file that contains the current schedule fee and benefit information for anaesthetics items.


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