Telehealth funds released for aged, palliative and cancer care

The federal government has issued an invitation to apply for funding for its new $20 million NBN-Enabled Telehealth Pilots program.

The program is open to practitioners who have already received a telehealth incentive payment.

It is jointly sponsored by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) but will be administered by DoHA.

In a joint statement, the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, and the Minister for Broadband, Stephen Conroy, said the program was designed to promote telehealth in NBN-enabled areas with a specific emphasis on aged care, palliative care and cancer care.

"Telehealth can solve the tyranny of distance by using technology to bring health services that are sometimes only provided hundreds of kilometres away from the patient's home right into their living room," Ms Plibersek said.

"We want patients to get the health care that they need, when they need it and where they need it.”

Senator Conroy said the delivery of high quality health care direct to the home via NBN-enabled telehealth services will make a real difference to the lives of Australians with high healthcare needs, particularly those living in regional, rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

"The program also aims to provide coaching and healthy living support in the home to improve overall health outcomes for older Australians or those living with serious illness,” he said.

The funding will commence in July 2012 and conclude in June 2014. In its guidelines to applicants, the government said it expected the amount of funding provided for individual pilots will generally be around $1 million to $3 million.

“Higher levels of funding may be available for pilot projects that are able to demonstrate exceptional prospective benefits,” the guidelines state.

Funding can be used for a number of capital and infrastructure purposes, including:

  • equipment, for example telehealth monitoring equipment, tablet devices or computers
  • service delivery (unless this is funded through alternative sources)
  • cost of access to broadband internet services (e.g. for patients to participate in the trial)
  • staffing and on-costs, including appropriate training for healthcare practitioners and patients
  • administrative costs (including legal, accounting and insurance), and
  • costs to support the local steering/reference group.

Funding can also be used for the initial establishment of secure networks, licensing software and patient internet access where it has not previously been funded or does not already exist in the practice.

“The applicant would have to demonstrate the need for such a system in their application for funding,” the guidelines state. “Project funds would cover the costs of managing and operating the telehealth system for the duration of the project. Any ongoing costs beyond the project's life, would be the responsibility of the applicant.”

Applications close on Thursday, May 17, with successful projects announced in June.

Further information on the program is available from the DoHA website.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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