People in rural and remote communities stand to benefit from eHealth in its many forms. The Alliance therefore continues to monitor developments with eHealth records, high speed broadband, telehealth and online health information.
The Alliance's purpose is to ensure that information on these issues is readily available to people in rural and remtoe areas and that those involved in their management remain aware of the aspects of those initiatives that are particular to such areas.
The Commonwealth Department of Health has recently completed a review of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR). The Review recommended that electronic health records operate under an opt-out system, that the PCEHR be renamed, a new governing authority be created, and that incentive payments for GPs be revised. The Department is now consulting with consumers, carers, healthcare professionals and software providers on the recommendations arising from the review. The outcomes of the consultation, which will influence the system design, the implementation schedule, and planning for communication, education, and risk management, are expected to be finalised in 2015.
For further information about the PCEHR visit the Department of Health eHealth page. Visit www.ehealth.gov.au to register for an eHealth record or check the Frequently Asked Questions. The National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) has developed eHealth registration support for clinicians. The Alliance submission to the PCEHR Review provided a number of practical suggestions for improving usability and adoption of the PCEHR for people in rural and remote areas, who are identified as one of the priority population groups. For more information about support and adoption of eHealth records and other eHealth applications from the Alliance, see the eHealth and Telehealth in Rural and Remote Australia fact sheet.
High Speed Broadband
The Alliance believes that high speed broadband should be available to the same technical standard and at the same effective cost to all families, services, businesses and communities everywhere. The costs to the consumer must not discriminate against people in rural and remote areas.
The platforms through which this is achieved must be robust and adaptable enough to accommodate future IT developments, and to provide high speed connectivity through appropriate combinations of telecommunications media including mobile phone, fibre, wireless, satellite and emerging technologies. The Connectivity for Rural and Remote Health fact sheet outlines development of fit-for-purpose infrastructure for phone, internet and television connections in rural and remote Australia. Among other things, improved connectivity will facilitate new and emerging best practice models of health care, such as those which incorporate high definition videoconferences, data exchange and high resolution image transfer. You can check your address or the roll-out map on the NBN Co website to find out the type of connection and status of work on the National Broadband Network in your area.
For more information, see:
- Australian Consumer and Communication Action Network (ACCAN) National Broadband Network: Guide for Consumers updated in 2013.
- Broadband for the Bush Alliance for the current priorities of this group of organisations with expertise in communications, remote service delivery, and community engagement, that is committed to the digital inclusion of remote and rural Australia.
Special arrangements under Medicare support telehealth consultations with specialists for patients living in rural and remote areas.
Using special Medicare item numbers, eligible health professionals and aged care service providers can organise and support real-time online appointments with specialist clinicians in a larger centre. The Alliance is constantly pointing out that telehealth must be used appropriately to complement, not replace, local health services and professionals. The eHealth and Telehealth in Rural and Remote Australia fact sheet explains how eHealth records, telehealth and mobile software applications can help to support health professionals and patients in rural and remote Australia through improving access to healthcare.
Some of the Alliance's member bodies have special programs to support their members to adopt and use eHealth and telehealth, including:
Online Health Information
Visit Rural and Regional Health Australia, for information, maps and more from the Australian Government to help you find local health and aged care services and information in rural and remote communities. Visit online at www.ruralhealthaustralia.gov.au or call 1800 899 538. See how your local hospital is performing or compare GP and local healthcare services through the MyHospitals and MyHealthyCommunities reports from the National Health Performance Authority. Visit www.myregion.gov.au to find out more about people, opportunities and developments in your region, including healthcare.