Driving Telehealth Adoption

The implementation of telehealth in Australia has suffered some hurdles in previous years, but state governments are looking to remove barriers around funding and infrastructure and put in place incentives to drive telehealth adoption.

Quality infrastructure, public and private sector collaboration, and funding models that take into account the various modalities of delivering healthcare, are necessary precursors to the successful implementation and adoption of telehealth-enabled models of care across Australia, according to technology entrepreneurs, healthcare workers, and public sector officials.

Dr James Freeman, founder of telehealth startup GP2U, says telehealth-enabled models of care are logical given the discrepancy between the distribution of doctors and distribution of patients across Australia.

“In the city, there’s a one GP per 1,000 patients ratio. In the country, it’s one GP per 3,000 patients or thereabout. If you look at specialists, then the numbers are far worse. There are less GP services available in the country and there are vastly less specialists, so we’ve got a problem. It means there is healthcare access inequality,” he said.

“If you think logically about it, it shouldn’t matter whether a patient accesses a health service using feet, wheels, or wings as the transport mechanism or video conferencing. If there’s no extra cash component, then there’s no reason for doctors to overservice or try to rort the system. It’s just a different way of delivering the same services we’re delivering now, but in a more patient-centric, convenient way.”

A 2016 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said total expenditure on health (recurrent and capital expenditure combined) had grown each year from AU$95 billion in 2003-04 to an estimated AU$155 billion in 2013-14.

“A ‘perfect storm’ of an ageing health workforce, the rising incidence of chronic conditions, and increased expectations of both consumers and healthcare professionals is contributing to unprecedented demand on our health system,” the report says.

The general consensus is that telehealth, even if it requires significant initial monetary outlays, would help alleviate pressures on the healthcare system in Australia in the long-term, improve patient experience, and contribute to better health outcomes.

However, the Australian government cannot drive the telehealth agenda forward on its own, Freeman said.

“Government’s role is to present the big picture of where they want the country to go, put in place core infrastructure that private enterprise can’t afford to fund, put in place incentives, then let the private sector handle the rest,” Freeman said.

“Private enterprise does things more efficiently than government, faster than government, and does it because government is so wrapped up in red tape and risk-aversity. A private company can see things that would be considered far too risky to do within public service.”

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by Tas Bindi – ZDNet