Boosting the uptake of telehealth

This story first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

The volume of telehealth services delivered has not met expectations, and just installing technology does not raise uptake on its own. Telehealth can be boosted by developing new models of care, building clinician acceptance, and expanding to include chronic disease management in the home.

For over 20 years, enthusiastic individuals have predicted that telehealth is on the verge of becoming a major new way to deliver healthcare, but the actual uptake around the world has been slow and fallen far short of these predictions. Many telehealth services are still in trial phase with no guarantee of sustainable operations.

Roald Merrell, the editor-in-chief of the Telemedicine and e-Health journal, said that failure to adopt has dominated much of our scientific consideration of telemedicine in the last 20 years, and went on to ask why, when doctors have taken up use of the internet and mobile phones with alacrity, telehealth seems to be different.

The situation in Australia

Let’s consider the actual situation in Australia. In private medical practice, we’ve had Medicare item numbers for video consultations to rural areas and aged care facilities for 2½ years now, and about 87,000 telehealth consultations have been done. The numbers have gradually increased to over 5000 a month and about half of these are dual consultations, with both the GP and the medical specialist being with the patient at the same time.

Yet to put this in perspective, this is less than one video consultation a month per rural GP. From the specialists’ point of view, some who have broadly advertised their availability to conduct video consultations have found that the time they have set aside for telehealth has not been fully booked.

To read the full story, click here for the February 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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