Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Calls for national telehealth strategy within the Australian Health System

A collaboration of health industry stakeholders released a White Paper in Canberra last week to promote the adoption of telehealth nationally.
The group (One in Four Lives) concluded that telehealth could save $4 billion a year in avoidable hospital presentations related to chronic conditions. The group’s name reflects the fact that almost six million, which equates to one in four, Australians are affected by chronic health conditions – and this accounted for 60% of all hospital bed days and an estimated $17 billion annually in public health costs.
The White Paper outlines that the Australian health system is not sustainable in its current form, citing Treasury modeling that predicted healthcare costs would ‘eat up’ more than 100% of the entire revenue collected by the Nation’s states by 2046.
Chair of the body, BT’s Director of Health Lisa Altman said the aim was to encourage industry participation in the large-scale adoption of telehealth – providing faster, more efficient healthcare solutions without imposing an additional burden on the health budget. Ms Altman also said the evidence-base for telehealth already existed, proven by large-scale operations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs in the USA and the Whole System Demonstrator Program in the UK.
Ms Altman reported that the UK program found telehealth could deliver a 15% reduction in emergency visits, a 20% reduction in emergency admissions, a 14% reduction in hospital admissions and bed days as well as a 45% reduction in mortality rates.
One In Four Lives group speaker Dr George Margelis said there were already notable telehealth trials and projects up and running across Australia that demonstrate telehealth works well.
“But the industry believes that there is a need for more flexible funding models for the widespread adoption of telehealth, to help us prevent the thousands of avoidable admissions we have every year because of chronic disease,” he said.
Dr Margellis said telehealth had the potential to revolutionize the way chronic disease was managed, by enhancing communication with patients and improving monitoring of their conditions. The White Paper is an attempt to “kick start the discussion between industry and government,” he added.

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