While telehealth is still being tested in pilot projects in primary care in Australia it is beginning to be business as usual in secondary care, particularly for out patient services in rural areas and emergency care in regional areas, according to a review of this year’s Australian Telehealth Conference (ATC 2017) which concluded on Saturday. The article in Pulse+IT, puts the difficulty of getting telehealth into primary care down to the funding model in Australia.
The much admired Australian health care service is a mixture of public and private health care with, broadly speaking, the publicly (Medicare) funded hospitals providing a universal free service and the primary care being provided by a Medicare subsidised private practice service.
Until July 2014 telehealth services received incentives under the Telehealth Financial Incentives Programme. This programme was instrumental in introducing many telehealth trials through which the medical community learned the benefits and difficulties of telehealth first hand. Although these incentives have stopped, providers still receive higher Medicare benefits for approved telehealth services listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (such as video consultations between specialists and patients in telehealth eligible areas). However restrictions in eligibility for Medicare Benefits for telehealth usage have been shown to reduce the potential use of telehealth facilities (see our earlier item Should Australia review restrictions on use of telemedicine?).
Topics discussed at the conference included Telestroke, Innovations (Augmented Reality, AI), delivery models and virtual care. Many of the presentations given at the ATC 2017 are available at the ATC website here.