Improved health and aged care
Digital Economy Goal: by 2020, as identified in the National E-Health Strategy endorsed by the federal, state and territory governments, 90 per cent of high-priority consumers such as older Australians, mothers and babies and those with a chronic disease, or their carers, can access individual electronic health records.
Through the government’s investments in telehealth, by July 2015, 495,000 telehealth consultations will have been delivered providing remote access to specialists for patients in rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas, and by 2020, 25 per cent of all specialists will be participating in delivering telehealth consultations to remote patients.
The Australian Government’s personally controlled electronic health (eHealth) record system was launched on 1 July 2012. An eHealth record is an electronic summary of a person’s key health information, drawing data from a number of separate existing sources and bringing them together in the one online format.
This allows a patient to view their health information whenever they want and to securely share it with the healthcare organisations involved in their care. This can help support safer, more efficient, better quality healthcare and gives patients greater control over their health information than ever before.
This will particularly benefit people with high healthcare needs, such as older Australians, people living with chronic and complex conditions, the parents of babies and young children, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Telehealth services use information and communications technologies to deliver health services and transmit health information over both long and short distances. It is about transferring voice, data, images and information electronically rather than making patients, health professionals or educators travel for appointments. It includes diagnosis, treatment, preventive and curative healthcare.
Video conferencing is one of the main ways in which telehealth is improving access to healthcare services for patients who live in regional, rural and remote areas.
The high-capacity broadband made available by the NBN is delivering greater speed, better access and may support us to engage with health professionals using advanced health applications.
Why is eHealth important?
Our ageing population is placing pressure on our healthcare services, which means that it is critical that high-quality health services are delivered and received more efficiently and effectively.
eHealth will support a better healthcare experience for patients and improved support and decision-making for healthcare providers. It has been estimated that net benefits from the current Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) program will reach $11.5 billion over 15 years to 2025 .
Access Economics has estimated that the ongoing benefits from telehealth to Australia are between $2 billion and $4 billion a year.
Telehealth can remove some of the barriers, such as distance, time and cost, which may make it difficult for us to access the healthcare service we need, especially if we live in a rural or remote community. For health professionals, telehealth can increase access to patients, the information exchange between healthcare teams and enhance the care they provide to us.
Where are we now?
As at 1 February 2013, there were more than 50,000 active eHealth records throughout Australia. In addition, more than 1000 healthcare provider organisations had registered to participate in the eHealth record system. There were also more than 1 million Medicare documents uploaded to PCEHR. As at June 2012, 7 per cent of health specialists in Australia had provided telehealth consultations.
As the NBN roll out progresses, more doctors, pharmacies, clinics, aged-care facilities and allied health professionals will be able to collaborate and deliver health serves using affordable, reliable, high-speed and high-capacity broadband.
The Government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health (eHealth) Record System was launched on 1 July 2012.
The Medicare Benefits Schedule Expansion is enabling a wider range of telehealth-based medical consultations to attract a Medical Benefits Schedule rebate, supporting the uptake of telehealth services.
The NBN-enabled Telehealth Pilots Program provides $20.6 million in grants for the delivery of in-home telehealth services to older Australians, people living with cancer and those requiring palliative care in NBN early release sites.
The NSW Telehealth trials in Kiama and Armidale supports chronic disease management and youth mental health services in New South Wales.
The Townsville Telehealth trial supports people with type 2 diabetes in receiving access to a range of health services from their homes.