Telehealth takes flight in 2020

There's nothing that Health Minister Greg Hunt likes more than a good slogan that he can put to good use, over and over again, and he's latched onto a new one and is making the most of it. In the last few years it has been all about the government's 'rock solid commitment to Medicare'. This year, it's about the government's response to the pandemic and how it 'brought forward a 10-year plan on telehealth within 10 days'.

That there was a 10-year plan on telehealth, or any plan at all for that matter, is news to us, but Greg has grabbed hold of this saying and he's not letting go. That said, 2020 has most definitely seen a coming of age for telehealth and the government is to be congratulated on finally coming to the party and funding it properly through the MBS. In the next few years, telehealth should become embedded in normal clinical workflow and patients and the heath system will be all the better for it.

Someone who has been an absolute trouper for telehealth is Australian Telehealth Society president Jackie Plunkett, who stood down this week from the honorary position after six years. In her final president's report, she reflected on the phrase coined by South Australian telehealth expert Tori Wade while lamenting the amount of pilot projects launched to test telehealth in the field. Telehealth, Dr Wade said, has had “more pilots than Qantas”. 2020, Ms Plunkett said, “has been a year where telehealth has taken off and Qantas was grounded.”

Electronic prescriptions were also a big feature of 2020 and we think the issue will dominate the coming year. Now that the capability to order scripts electronically is available and patients have their tokens on their phones, the effect on community pharmacy could be immense. Amazon is waiting in the wings and is ready to swoop: it launched Amazon Pharmacy in the US last month and has registered the trademark in Australia. Why line up in a pharmacy when you can order online and have it delivered in the post?

We've been running our now annual eHealth year in review articles this week, taking a look back at the major events of this most dreadful year. You can read them here, here, here and here. COVID, telehealth, COVID, remote monitoring, COVID, COVID and COVID pretty much sums it up. There was also a lot of interest in the Parkville precinct's roll out of its Epic EMR, along with news about private equity buyouts of health IT vendors, and Pulse+IT's technology resources for COVID-19 pages were popular too.

In our poll question last week we asked: Will the embrace of virtual care continue beyond the pandemic? 94 per cent said yes, with just a few naysayers.

This week we ask:

Will telehealth or ePrescriptions have the biggest impact on the health system in 2021?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

Pulse+IT is heading off for a month's break from next week, just as COVID rears its ugly head again in Sydney. Stay home, stay safe, use telehealth, and let us hope that 2021 is a bit of an improvement on this shocker. We'll be back on January 18. Have a very pleasant Christmas and New Year.

Pulse+IT's top 5 for 2020

1. Private equity firm to buy Auslab owner Citadel Group for $503m

2. DXC sells healthcare software business to European clinical IT firm Dedalus

3. Opinion: telehealth is not quite the colt from old Regret but it sure as hell has got away

4. Why are Australian GPs doing relatively few video consultations?

5. Parkville precinct goes live with Epic EMR

Click here to see the full hot top 20.


+1 # Oliver Frank 2020-12-19 08:53
Requiring citizens to be enrolled in only one general practice at a time to receive Medicare benefits will have the biggest impact on the health system in 2021
+1 # Daniel Byrne 2020-12-19 09:28
I voted ePrescriptions only because it is actually “here and now” and working. Real Telehealth (not telephone) seems a million miles away from me as a simple suburban GP.
+1 # Kylie El-Sheikh 2020-12-19 17:44
I voted Telehealth, the uptake of escripts will be greater but the impact on the health and well being of Australians who are funded for Telehealth will have much better outcomes

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