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Can Telehealth keep people out of hospitals?

Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015

Information Age

While the Government's latest intergenerational report has been much maligned for its dismissal of climate risks, its assessment of the ageing population - and the pressure it will place on the health system - broadly echoes the concerns of the health sector.

"Chronic disease is going to swamp the health services in this country," UnitingCare Health executive director Richard Royle said as part of a panel discussion at the Association and Communication Events' Connect 2015 conference.

Relieving pressure on hospitals and community carers to meet this demand for increased treatment is a fast-looming challenge.

The question is: can telehealth act as a valve to release that pressure?

Tunstall Healthcare managing director Lyn Davies believes telehealth could be a "second level-type service" - after a patient sees a general practitioner, but before they turn to hospital or community care.

"There will be a hotline that you can go to where there's a clinically qualified person that you can do a face-to-face with," Davies predicted.

"I also see private insurance companies getting behind it, allowing people to have access to devices that will help them but keep them out of hospital, and private insurance premiums will be coming down because to it."

Donna Markham, an advisor to the chief executive at Monash Health, said home-based care was needed to cope with the growing shortage of acute care beds in hospitals nationally.

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