Increasing the uptake of Telehealth across the community controlled sector has the potential to make a huge difference for patients, the NACCHO Summit heard yesterday in Adelaide.

Journalist John Thompson-Mills reports below why Roy Monaghan, NACCHO’s Telehealth Delivery Manager, is excited about the future opportunities.

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Telehealth: Dial “F” for the future

John Thompson-Mills writes:

For many, the Telehealth project will mean the end of driving long hours on bad roads to get vital medical attention. For the chronically ill, this could be a life-extending development.

Roy Monaghan, NACCHO’s Telehealth Delivery Manager, says the aim is to enhance Aboriginal peoples’ access to specialists, by supporting patient consultations using videoconferencing facilities within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) across Australia.

But Telehealth is not just for doctors and their patients. Service providers can also hook-up and swap information, and of course so can communities. A problem shared could mean a problem solved.

This will allow ACCHSs to develop Telehealth plans tailored to their needs, along with the pre-requisite training.

But Telehealth is still to impact on a majority of eligible services.

A recent NACCHO survey of 100 services revealed that only 30 were involved in Telehealth. NACCHO has 150 members and Roy Monaghan wants them all involved.

Encouragingly, 63 services have taken advantage of NACCHO’s infrastructure grants, which means they can now be networked and linked with specialists in remote areas.

“You will now have those services talking together and the fact is communication is one of the great keys for improving the way those services operate,” Monaghan says.

NACCHO hope that all 150 members will join up in the next two years and use the capital grants to help them meet the establishment costs of the infrastructure they need.

This may happen even sooner if Monaghan can encourage members to make a stand.

He said: “Members need to speak out about wanting this service, which will help increase pressure on decision makers.”

Over the next four or five months, teleconferences will held to explain how Telehealth will work, but the ultimate realisation should come sometime in the 2014/15 financial year when a new satellite is launched.

This will reach the communities the much-hyped NBN won’t or simply can’t service because of cost.

The new satellite will guarantee the minimum level of upload and download speeds that Telehealth needs to function, although Monaghan concedes that the more people that use it, the slower those speeds will become.

Roy Monaghan will soon begin visiting services around the country to further sell the Telehealth concept, a technology many IT-shy Elders are struggling to get their heads around.

But he’s convinced that eventually Telehealth will become a “very natural process.”

“The more that we’re able to get services talking to each other about the good practices that they already undertake, the ability to be able to transfer that information across the entire nation, it will have a beneficial effect.

“I can’t quantify it at this time but it is going to be something that has a definite effect on how we deliver services for our people, and non- Indigenous Australians too.”

And thanks to Vicki Sheedy from ACRRM (@vsheedy1) for the tweet-reports below…

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For previous Croakey reports from the Summit

A call for better support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers

• Improving the lives of disabled people in remote communities: case study from Warburton

• The road to Closing the Gap may be turning a corner

• “Absolutely awesome” tweet reporting from NACCHO Summit 

• Prof Ngiare Brown on the cultural determinants of health

• Previewing the summit and some suggestions for Q and A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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