With dozens of telehealth rebates recently extended by the Australian Federal Government, telehealth has once again been in the public spotlight.

GPs are calling for these benefits to be made permanent, and recent research by the likes of Deloitte and Curtin University indicate that close to 70 per cent of Australians agree. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians have largely had positive experiences using virtual healthcare services.

Since its launch in 2018, the Digital Health CRC (DHCRC) has partnered with Curtin University on a couple of telehealth projects. One of these is Moving Beyond Telehealth led by Associate Professor, Richard Norman. A Health Economist with a passion for data, as well as an ongoing interest in the economic evaluation of healthcare, Richard is excited by the opportunities presented by telehealth technology. 

“Telehealth seems to have been an area that was emerging for a long time but was pushed further into the mainstream because of the COVID pandemic; suddenly, problems which had been insurmountable became secondary to service provision… There is a galaxy of technology available, but what fits with current health system structures, and leads to real change in patient outcomes and experience? That is what we want to find out.”  

Moving Beyond Telehealth is a project that involves two linked stages of research.

Firstly, Richard and the team have been conducting a series of workshops with patients, clinicians and other interested parties designed to explore how Australians feel about using virtual services and how healthcare professionals see it being used into the future. And now, they look to enter the second phase of the project. 

“We have been conducting a lot of focus groups exploring how telehealth is perceived, how and where it works, and how stakeholders see it developing in the future. We want to now take this research and test solutions in practice. How can we take current virtual care solutions and make them better?” 

Working with the WA Primary Health Alliance, WA Country Health Service and WA Health, researchers at Curtin University are looking forward to stage two of this valuable research. To date, Richard has relished the opportunity to collaborate on a project that is exploring how we can use digital technology to improve the efficiency of healthcare service delivery.  

“The DHCRC approach means we work constantly with engaged health system people. Being close to the action, seeing both the problems and opportunities first-hand, is hugely exciting and challenging. It certainly makes you question what you thought you knew, and that dialogue is what makes the journey so rewarding.” 

Moving Beyond Telehealth is an ongoing DHCRC research project led by Curtin University and supported by WA Primary Health Alliance, WA Country Health Service and WA Health.

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