What is telehealth?

The International Organisation for Standardisation defines telehealth as the ‘use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance’, while drawing a distinction between this and telemedicine, which is defined as the ‘use of advanced telecommunication technologies to exchange health information and provide health care services across geographic, time, social and cultural barriers’.

Why has telehealth been introduced in Australia?

Government and non-government groups are aiming to remove barriers to access medical services for all Australians. The CRE is particularly focussed on researching ways in which equal access to specialist care can be achieved through telehealth. The long-term goal for the CRE is that patients using telehealth facilities in general practices, eligible residential aged care facilities, at home and rural small hospitals will be able to ‘see’ specialists without the time and expense involved in travelling to major cities.

How will research further the cause of telehealth?

While the potential benefits of telehealth are often acknowledged, particularly in Australia where the distances are great and the population widely dispersed, the integration of telehealth within mainstream clinical practice is limited. The CRE aims to address a range of questions such as:

  • What health needs are currently being unmet that could be met using telehealth?
  • What are the barriers to telehealth implementation? Why is there still a poor uptake of telehealth?
  • What expertise and training are required to implement telehealth?
  • How does the cost of providing telehealth compare to the outcome?

Have any telehealth challenges in Australia been identified by the CRE?

Yes. These include technology solutions, modes of telehealth, health economics and business practices.