2017 President’s report – Jackie Plunkett


JackiePlunkett390X390The Australasian Telehealth Society was formed in 2008 to deliver a united voice for telehealth and to ensure that information related to telehealth was made more easily accessible. Now, in 2017 the ATHS has had the honour of working with the Australian Telehealth Integration Program funded under the Australian Digital Health Agency to develop initiatives to embed telehealth into everyday clinical practice at a national level. We have come a long way but we are still envious of our New Zealand colleagues.

Over the past year we have:

  • Sent out 12 This Week in Telehealth newsletters to members (TWIT)
  • Added additional resources to the ATHS website which has had 3600 visits over the past 12 months
  • Increased our mailing list to 640, including 15 corporate partners
  • Maintained a social media presence through LinkedIn and Facebook with 158 followers
  • Participated in the Australian Telehealth Integration Program led by the NT Department of Health on behalf of the Australian Digital Health Agency
  • Developed a submission to the Australian Digital Health Agency regarding the National Digital Health Strategy describing the benefits of telehealth in respect to the Digital Health landscape supporting healthcare over a distance, and suggest ways in which these benefits can be achieved.

One of the strongest recommendations for the Digital Health Strategy is to recognize that telehealth is an enabler; the submission developed works to support the case that healthcare at a distance is a considerable factor in driving the need for digitalized healthcare. We need to have secure electronic messaging and a medical record that follows the customer, we need to increase health literacy and develop self-management and monitoring skills within the population, we need to provide more solutions for the population to encourage health as a lifestyle option. This is a healthcare industry revolution, national policy will need to adapt, new funding models will be required to create systematic change and appropriate incentives should be applied including payment by outcomes instead of payment by status quo.

The healthcare revolution is also supported by the knowledge revolution that is at the fingertips of citizens and health providers with mobile applications (apps), wearable devices and an ever-increasing expanse in clinical information using online resources, some safe some not.

I am encouraged by the interaction between the Australian Digital Health Agency reaching out to the Telehealth industry to seek to embed telehealth into everyday clinical practice and I ask that the focus on telehealth does not diminish. We are so close, and with only a few policy changes and recognition of telehealth as just part of core health service delivery and

not special, telehealth will no longer be in the ‘project’ space but a true mainstream offering to our citizens.

In New Zealand, I am happy to say Australia is truly jealous, it appears that you have a clear path and a strategy to support telehealth, the creation of the National Telehealth service is a huge resource for the reform of healthcare, I implore you to continue on the path to make a change for the good.

The support of the ATHS membership and the leadership of the committee which represents the society has been a core element of the activities of ATHS. The committee volunteers its time and expertise; to promote the uptake of telehealth, this commitment and dedication by our committee is to be commended.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as President for the last two years. I would like to particularly thank my fellow executive members – Alan Taylor (Vice President); Michelle McGuirk (Treasurer); Laurie Wilson (Honorary Secretary) and Anthony Smith. I would also like to thank each of the state representatives who contribute to the ATHS committee, for Australia and New Zealand who form a part of our broader committee; Susan Jury, Yogi Kanagasingam, Kim Ford, Liam Caffery, Mike Harman and our friends from New Zealand Denise Irvine and Simon Hayden.

The ATHS has also invested in marketing and communications support. Kath McIntyre has fulfilled this role with passion and enthusiasm and looks to leverage opportunities for the society. I would like to acknowledge this work and thank Kath for her efforts, which have, and I hope continue to contribute to the growth of the society.

I would like to say a fond farewell, again, and a big thank you to our Honorary Secretary, Laurie Wilson. Laurie has served the ATHS since 2008 (with one year’s gap) and is, and will always be, a strong presence within the ATHS, over the past 12 months he has tirelessly organised and supported the members always with a smile on his face. Our new Secretary, Susan Jury, has big boots to fill.

I congratulate Assoc Prof Anthony Smith on the successful SFT conference once again, I feel that telehealth, ATHS and SFT are going from strength to strength. I reiterate my recurrent hope that we in the telehealth industry are successful in the advancement of telehealth.

We look forward to a challenging and exciting 2018!

Jackie Plunkett

President, Australasian Telehealth Society

October 2017