Telehealth support officers on offer to Medicare Locals

Expressions of interest are being sought from Medicare Locals in outer urban and rural and remote regions to secure the services of one of 13 telehealth support officers (TSOs) being funded to assist practices to build telehealth capability.

The TSOs are being funded by the Department of Health and Ageing through the Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AML Alliance), the new representative organisation into which the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) is transitioning.

The AML Alliance’s transitional CEO, Leanne Wells, said 13 outer urban rural/remote Medicare Locals will be funded an average of $115,000 over the period of the program, which will provide a full-time time salary for a telehealth support officer plus travel and expenses for practice visits within their respective regions.

“There will also be small grant opportunities for all Medicare Locals to provide a telehealth event such as workshops and practice road shows, which aim to promote telehealth activities,” Ms Wells said.

The funding is part of the federal government's 'Connecting Health Services With the Future, Modernising Medicare by Providing Rebates for Online Consultations' initiative, which Ms Wells said was initially to receive recurrent funding over three years but was cut back to 12 months in last month's federal budget.

The government has shortened the timeframe it is prepared to continue funding telehealth initiatives to encourage the primary and aged care sectors to take up telehealth services sooner, according to the 2012 budget papers.

It is understood that the primary role for TSOs will be to identify areas of greatest need for telehealth training and support for their region and the areas mostly likely to adopt telehealth practice.

TSOs will work with clinicians, practitioners and practice support staff within the primary care sector to build telehealth capacity, readiness and to assist with the adoption of telehealth practice and uptake.

“TSOs will be provided comprehensive support and education and technical understanding by AML Alliance and the Australian College of Rural Remote Medicine but will bring to their roles an important understanding of general practice systems which will help to support the integration of telehealth activities into everyday practice,” Ms Wells said.

“Eligible Medicare Locals have been asked to complete an expression of interest application which looks for an understanding of their region’s demographics including population, health service access and local health issues.

“They are also being asked to demonstrate an understanding of local clinical service provision which is most likely to benefit from the inclusion of telehealth and to outline a project plan to integrate telehealth activities into local general practice and aged care facilities to connect GPs with specialist services.”

Contracts with successful Medicare Locals will be until the end of May 2013. Application forms have been sent to Medicare Local CEOs, and more information is available from the AML Alliance.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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