Bringing health services into our homes

By May 8th, 2013

CSIRO has been awarded more than A$4m research funding by the Federal Government to trial two new telehealth technologies under the NBN-Enabled Telehealth Pilots Program.

The trials, Home Monitoring of Chronic Diseases for Aged Care and NBN-enabled Indigenous Tele-eye Care, will run for 12 months involving more than 1300 patients in rural health clinics, hospitals, local health care districts, nursing homes and patients in their own homes across Australia.

Dr Sarah Dods, leader of health services for CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, said we need to think differently about how we deliver health services due to the pressure of rising costs, our ageing population and an increase in chronic disease.

“We are currently spending 20 cents in every tax dollar on health and that is forecast to increase to 40 cents in every dollar by 2043. At that point, health is predicted to consume our entire state government budgets if we don’t change the way that we do things,” Dr Dods said.

New ways of delivering health services are being made possible by the arrival of fast broadband infrastructure across Australia, especially into remote communities. This technology is reducing the need for travel, providing timely access to services and specialists, improving the ability to identify developing conditions and providing new ways to educate, train and support remote healthcare workers.

“They can also reduce the burden on our health system by helping hospital ‘frequent flyers’ – such as chronic disease sufferers and the elderly who accounted for more than 70 per cent of Australia’s A$103.6bn health expenditure during 2007-2008 – manage their conditions from home,” Dr Dods said.

Video-based tele-consultations are now available to patients in some locations around Australia, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what broadband can potentially deliver. CSIRO is working towards making the next generation of tele-health services a reality.

“We are very excited to be at the helm of these projects which bring together the best minds across CSIRO in health services research, computer science, mathematics, statistics and social science, to work with our partners on Australia’s largest telehealth study” Dr Dods said.

The NBN enabled Telehealth Pilots Program is administered by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) funded by the Department of Broadband and Communications and the Digital Economy.

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