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ATHS releases Telehealth Strategy

Telehealth and eHealth are innovative areas of social benefit which are inextricably linked with the rollout of the National Broadband Network, and the development of Australia’s Digital Economy. Unlike eHealth, Telehealth has suffered from a lack of a clear and well articulated national strategic direction in recent years, yet is frequently acknowledged as a major component on Health services reform which would be readily enabled by the national rollout of the NBN.

The Australasian Telehealth Society has moved to address this gap by producing a new discussion paper launched today, suggesting three key strategic directions which should be followed:

–          Focus on national priority groups for receipt of health care (e.g. aged and chronic disease)

–          Apply fit for purpose models of telehealth services and delivery (e.g. primary care based)

–          Choose the locus of implementation for optimal effect (e.g. regional and peri-urban sites).

These strategies are underpinned in the paper by a series of related operational plan proposals.

The discussion paper draws together inputs from a multisectoral roundtable workshop of 50 participants which was convened at “Global Telehealth 2012”, a recent international conference held in Sydney during November 2012, sponsored by Department of Health and Ageing and hosted by the Australasian Telehealth Society.  The authors of the document are Prof Colin Carati from Flinders University in Adelaide, and Dr George Margelis, a clinical and health informatician from Sydney.

The document is differentiated by its orientation towards a national approach which is targeted, purposeful and efficient in nature, leading to diversification and variety amongst suppliers and services.  This contrasts with some recent commentary which has suggested centralised, comprehensive, and nationally controlled schemes are necessary for widespread success.

“This proposal is intended to be immediately workable and to enable various constituents to work together” said Prof Anthony Maeder, President of the Society. “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”.

The report has been simultaneously released in Australia by the Australasian Telehealth Society, and in USA, at the annual American Telemedicine Association meeting in Austin, Texas, where ATHS representatives Assoc Prof Anthony Smith (ATHS Vice-President) and Dr George Margelis (ATHS Industry Liaison) are attending, in conjunction with the international umbrella body International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISFTEH).

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

Website:         http://aths.org.au/TelehealthStrategy

Contacts for further information:

Prof Anthony Maeder, President, Australasian Telehealth Society, a.maeder@uws.edu.au

0403160424 / 0414017653 / (02)46203462

Dr Laurie Wilson, Public Officer, Australasian Telehealth Society, laurie.wilson@csiro.au  0417045934