The poor health of Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people has been reported for decades. Although indigenous infant mortality rates have been declining, life expectancy has not changed because of continued high adult mortality rates (due largely to high death rates from chronic diseases in middle age).

Chronic disease, with preventable cause, is becoming increasingly prevalent in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population with progressively younger age of onset. Indigenous communities are often disadvantaged due to lack of access to culturally appropriate medical service, in both metropolitan and rural communities. 

Visits to many rural communities are infrequent, sometimes irregular, expensive to undertake and often too short to allow proper follow-up of patients after surgery. New models of care need to be developed in collaboration in Indigenous communities to ensure a more consistent approach for routine community-based health services. Telehealth may assist in early detection of chronic disease and improved access to specialist treatment.  

Our work

HealtheScreen4KIDS 

A telehealth enabled mobile health screening service was established in 2009 - in partnership with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Queensland,  Deadly Ears and Queensland Health. This community-based telehealth service has been providing an integrated model of ear health care that includes routine screening, surveillance, treatment and review for school age children at risk of chronic health conditions such as ear disease.  This project presents an excellent opportunity to formally evaluate the clinical impact and economic value of the telehealth service.  Factors such as clinical utilisation; patient and health service benefits;  community perception and lived experience and factors influencing organisational uptake will be explored in detail.

Specialist management of diabetes through telehealth clinics 

The prevalence of diabetes in rural Indigenous communities is very high and rising.  In these communities, the delivery of optimal healthcare services, are hampered by distance and the lack of specialists. To improve the long-term health outcomes of patients with diabetes, it is imperative that improved management of diabetes is achieved as early as possible in the diabetes journey. This project will investigate the efficacy, feasibility, acceptability, costs and quality of specialist diabetes telehealth clinics in indigenous communities in rural Queensland.

Models of telehealth care for the urban indigenous 

This project is investigating various models for delivery of care via telehealth for indigenous people residing in urban areas.

Tele-dental screening in indigenous communities: feasibility and acceptability

This project will determine the feasibility of providing screening services for dental caries by telehealth. A variety of technologies and models of dental health care incorporating telehealth will be explored to determine if improved access to services in areas with limited dental services is possible.

Tele-oncology support in Indigenous communities

This project will explore cancer support services for Indigenous communities and examine the potential of telehealth for increasing the uptake of support service for Indigenous cancer patients.

Systematic review 

A comprehensive review of telehealth services in Indigenous populations.