Should Australia review restrictions on use of telemedicine?

Research carried out in Australia shows that a hospital with telemedicine facilities for outpatient consultations was using those facilities for only one in seven potential appointments. The retrospective study of outpatient appointments at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane showed that in a 12-month period 2.5% of outpatient consultations were carried out by telemedicine. Although 17.5% of the appointments were potentially viable via telemedicine, a policy of permitting telemedicine only for rural residents meant that, as the majority of the viable telemedicine consultations were with metropolitan residents they were carried out as hospital visits.

This raises the question whether expansion of the use of telemedicine for hospital consultations in Australia should now be reviewed. Currently there is a geographic requirement that the patient’s location must be outside of an Australian Standard Geographic Classification Remoteness Area 1 (a city) for a telemedicine consultation  to be eligible for Medicare Benefits.

The research has been published in the Royal Society of Medicine publication Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. The author, Monica Taylor, also presented the findings at Successes and Failures in Telemedicine 2016 in New Zealand where she was awarded the best paper award.

Avizia talks Telemedicine Down Under

Telemedicine startup Avizia, which revealed last week its $11 million Series A fund raise, has been promoting itself through a webinar series. Unusually for a US company, it has presented panels discussing telemedicine in Canada and this month, Australia. (It also has operations ex-US in Australia and UK, and was a sponsor of SFT-15 in Brisbane last November.) The panelists were Dr. Victoria Wade (University of Adelaide), Dr Anthony Smith (University of Queensland) and Dr Sisiri Edirippulige (Queensland). Topics discussed in the hour webinar were:

  • Aging population with increased rates of chronic diseases
  • Density of care providers in urban areas, but 1/3 of the Australian population lives in rural communities
  • Government funding for telehealth video consultations
  • Incentives to expand or develop new telehealth programs
  • Increased familiarization with the technology; expectations are changing on how to obtain care

The recorded webinar is available here.

Apps and wearables – developments over the summer

Trying at least temporarily to distract this editor’s attention from his recent unfortunate experience with Jawbone technology, here are some interesting app and wearables snippets received over the summer.

We begin with news of the first CE certified mole checking app, SkinVision which rates moles using a simple traffic light system (using a red, orange or green risk rating). The app lets users store photos in multiple folders so they can track different moles over time. It aims to detect changing moles (color, size, symmetry etc.) that are a clear sign that something is wrong and that the person should visit a doctor immediately.

This contrasts with the findings of a paper published in June examining 46 insulin calculator apps, 45 of which were found to contain material problems, resulting in the conclusion that :”The majority of insulin dose calculator apps provide no protection against, and may actively contribute to, incorrect or inappropriate dose recommendations that put current users at risk of both catastrophic overdose and more subtle harms resulting from suboptimal glucose control.”, which to say the least of matters is worrying. (more…)