ATHS calls for national strategy for telehealth

The Australasian Telehealth Society (ATHS) has released a discussion paper on the development of a national strategy for telehealth, outlining three key directions it thinks should be followed.

Written by Colin Carati from Flinders University and health informatician George Margelis, the discussion paper is based on input from a multi-sectoral roundtable workshop of 50 participants held at the Global Telehealth 2012 conference in Sydney last November.

The discussion paper suggests that the proposed strategy should focus on national priority groups, such as the elderly and people with chronic disease; apply fit for purpose models of telehealth services and delivery; and choose areas of implementation for optimal effect, particularly regional and outer metropolitan areas.

The strategies are underpinned in the paper by a series of operational plan proposals. These include encouraging the Department of Health and Ageing to sponsor a meeting of funded pilot projects in chronic, aged and palliative care and to publish the outcomes.

It also recommends establishing a link to DoHA to lobby for greater MBS recognition of telehealth services, and incrementally remove the requirement for a “physical presence” to claim a telehealth consult under the MBS.

In a statement, ATHS president Anthony Maeder said the document is differentiated by its orientation towards a national approach which is “targeted, purposeful and efficient” in nature, as opposed to suggestions of developing centralised and nationally controlled schemes.

“This proposal is intended to be immediately workable and to enable various constituents to work together,” Professor Maeder said.

“Telehealth is a key component in leveraging the power of ICT and NBN to assist with healthcare reform and access improvement. The time to start doing it on a larger scale, is now.

“We need to avoid further discussion on ‘who will pay’ and ‘who will control’, and just get on with widespread realisation of telehealth in our country. We have a long way to go to catch up with levels of telehealth services common in Europe, USA and Canada.”

Dr Margelis and ATHS vice-president Anthony Smith are currently at the annual American Telemedicine Association meeting in Texas, where the report has also been released. It is available from the ATHS website.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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