It’s Time to Do Virtual Healthcare Differently

COVID-19 has undoubtedly provided the challenge of the Century to our health system. It has highlighted the very real need to do things differently – opportunities which should continue to be leveraged in a post-pandemic world. Patients rightly expect that the model-of-care positives to come out of COVID-19 will continue and be bolstered on in the future. 

In a Perspectives Brief published by Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research in July, case studies demonstrated the opportunities to improve health outcomes and patient experience through the use of telehealth consultations in general practice. Six case studies showed how ‘at the coalface’ telehealth can:

  • Benefit the daily workflow of GPs
  • Maximise equity of access to healthcare
  • Support patients in developing their own health knowledge and skills

Read the Perspectives Brief here


In a Position Paper published by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) in July, the “effective and sustainable adoption of virtual health care” builds on the general practice case studies and calls for sustained policy efforts across big-picture areas such as funding, governance and workforce in order to embed sustainable long-term virtual health care models.

The Paper explores the notion that virtual health care requires more than policy-making on the run, such as the recent ‘stage 7’ telehealth decision by the Australian Government where telehealth GP providers need to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient—defined as seeing that patient in the last 12 months—in order to provide MBS-funded telehealth services.

It suggests that a forward-looking approach to virtual health care would involve planning to embrace the opportunities which may be available, for example, through remote monitoring, data-driven quality improvement, artificial intelligence and other innovations, to create new models of care. While the technology may have been available for decades, the Paper describes that effective and sustainable implementation will require sector-wide attention to the following areas.  

  • Patient-centredness, including co-design with patients, and measuring what matters to patients;
  • Equity, including proactive efforts to ensure affordability, equitable access to technology and digital literacy;
  • Cross-sector leadership and governance, across jurisdictions and the primary and acute care sectors, and in partnership with industry and researchers;
  • Digitally-capable health workforce development, prioritising team-based care and new roles needed to optimise integration of technology into health care;
  • Interoperability, standards and quality assured technology; and
  • Funding for reforms, including better use of data and evaluation.

Read the Position Paper here.


Big Picture thinking required

While it’s important to not sacrifice current healthcare practices, processes and professional interests, these two papers highlight that now – more than ever – we need big picture thinking and serious policy reform. We need to be agile and innovative and we cannot shy away from forward-looking disruption.

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