It must be utterly galling to Labor leader Bill Shorten and his team that after four years of the government attacking public spending as part of its 'debt and deficit disaster' narrative, the polls prove so dire for the Coalition that they promptly turn around and steal all of Labor's more popular health and education policies.
After dumping $2.2 billion worth of unlegislated budget repair measures from the disastrous 2014 health budget, on Tuesday night the government then went full socialist, newly embracing Medicare, splashing out on medicines and even returning ownership to the state government of a hospital it “saved” in a significant electorate leading up to the 2007 election. Give us Mercy indeed.
Either there's a big announcement of some sort in next week's budget or the Department of Health just moves at a glacial pace, but this week saw the belated release of the evaluation report on the opt-out trials of the My Health Record held last year, six months after it was submitted.
Unsurprisingly, the evaluation found in favour of opt-out, as did the vast majority of consumers and healthcare providers surveyed. Many consumers also thought it should be compulsory for providers to participate in the system – which would cause a mass revolt from doctors and is never going to happen – and they seemed to display far less concern over privacy and security than the privacy crowd pontificates about.
The memorable phrase first coined by Adelaide GP Tori Wade that telehealth in Australia has “more pilots than Qantas” got a nice little workout at the Australian Telehealth Conference (ATC2017) in Melbourne this week, but while it may be in vogue for a little bit longer, the consensus seems to be that we are beginning to see the move from itty bitty pilot projects to embedding telehealth as business as usual in the provision of healthcare.
That may not necessarily be true as yet in primary care, predominantly due to the funding model, but it is certainly beginning to be seen in secondary care, particularly for outpatients services for rural patients and but also in emergency care in regional areas where specialists are hard to come by. All states and territories are now taking telehealth seriously, even the small ones, and a lot of the thanks for that is due to a mixture of political enthusiasm for sexy tech but also the hard yards that a number of clinical groups in a number of states have done over the years.