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Calls for national telehealth strategy


One In Four Lives group speaker Dr George Margelis presenting the white paper to MP Steve Irons, Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health (representing the Minister for Health).

One In Four Lives group speaker Dr George Margelis presenting the white paper to MP Steve Irons, chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health

The Federal Government is being urged to develop a national strategy for telehealth as an effective way to help rein in Australia’s ballooning health budget deficit.

A collaboration of health industry stakeholders, One In Four Lives, released a white paper in Canberra on Wednesday to promote the adoption of telehealth nationally.

The group, whose members include the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIC), BT, anywhere healthcare, Philips, and the University of Western Sydney, said telehealth could save $4 billion a year in avoidable hospital presentations related to chronic conditions.

The group said its name reflected the fact that almost six million, or one in four Australians, were affected by chronic health conditions. This accounted for 60 per cent of all hospital bed days and an estimated $17 billion annually in public health costs, it said.

The white paper said that the Australian health system was not sustainable in its current form. It cited Treasury modelling that predicted healthcare costs would consume more than 100 per cent of the entire revenue collected by the states by 2046.

Chair of the body, BT’s director of health Lisa Altman, said the aim was to encourage industry participation in the large-scale adoption of telehealth – providing faster, more efficient healthcare solutions without imposing an additional burden on the health budget.

Ms Altman said the evidence base for telehealth already existed, through large scale deployments such as the Department of Veterans Affairs in the US and the Whole System Demonstrator Program in the UK.

She said:

The UK program found that telehealth could deliver a 15 per cent reduction in emergency visits, a 20 per cent reduction in emergency admissions, a 14 per cent reduction in both hospital admissions and bed days and a 45 per cent reduction in mortality rates.

One In Four Lives group speaker Dr George Margelis said there were already many telehealth trials and projects around Australia which showed telehealth worked well.

“But the industry believes that there is a need for more flexible funding models for the widespread adoption of telehealth, to help us prevent the thousands of avoidable admissions we have every years because of chronic disease,” he said.

Dr Margellis said telehealth had the potential to revolutionise how chronic disease was managed, by enhanced communication with patients and improved monitoring of their conditions.

The white paper was an attempt to “kick start the discussion between industry and government,” he added.

The call for a national telehealth strategy follows Monday’s launch of an ‘ICT Vision’ for the aged care sector, by the Aged Care Industry Information Technology (ACIITC). As Australian Ageing Agenda reported, the ICT Vision called on government to assist the sector in adopting ICT so aged services can meet the demands of the ageing population.

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