We reported in September last year (Telehealth and Broadband in Australia) that the cost of the National Broadband Network in Australia was being debated with telehealth being proposed as a potential justification. The Australian broadband rollout was very ambitious with fibre to the premises (FTTP), one of the costliest solutions, as the target. The Government has now lowered its sights and does not expect to connect all premises with FTTP.
Recently a series of questions were raised in the Australian Parliament on both the status of telehealth in Australia and the broadband programme and what impact, if any, the latter has on the first. The written reply from the Australian Department of Health is not unexpected and enlightening.
The questions were focussed on the benefits of telehealth on dementia diagnosis and treatment as well as the general care of the elderly and any impact of the reduced broadband target. The DoH has responded that “telehealth services can be delivered by a range of broadband access technologies”. Following several telehealth pilots which were originally run in areas where FTTP was available, the Australian Government has expanded the range of broadband services that can be used in the pilots. Currently nine such pilots are being funded and use “any fit for purpose broadband connection”.
Additionally the response gives some insight into the situations where telehealth is being applied – by no means all videconferencing! “… to provide healthcare services via telehealth to the person’s home, particularly in aged care, cancer care and palliative care. The services being delivered include vital sign monitoring, video conferencing with a healthcare provider, eye screening, palliative care monitoring and rehabilitation services” says one of the replies.