In 2011 the Australian Government established new organisations called Medicare Locals to plan and fund extra health services in communities across Australia. Country South South Australia Medicare Local (CSSAML), one such Medicare Local, has been very active in promoting telehealth/telemedicine in its region covering just over 7% of South Australia.
Health areas to which telehealth has been directed by CSSAML include psychiatry, psychology, gastroenterology and cardiology. Videophones in GP practices and non-hospital settings provide telepsychology, telepsychiatry and other specialist services to support GP’s in rural communities via the State Government’s Digital Telehealth Network; telehealth consultations have begun between a gastroenterologist and an NGO office, which is the pre-cursor to initiating monthly half day video consulting sessions; a cardiologist will soon be able to supply services to GP practices at five remote locations.
The benefit to these remote communities is great. For every two post-colonoscopy patients receiving video-consultations, one new patient can be seen face-to-face. Dr Tidman, operating the cardiology service is quoted in the February 2014 issue of the CSSAML newsletter as saying that he conducts 40% of his consultations via telehealth.
The Australian Government is investing more than $1.8 billion so Medicare Locals can coordinate and deliver important health services including eHealth. Medicare Locals are said to employ more than 3,000 frontline health workers.