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Implementing telehealth as core business in health services

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The many benefits for the rural sector suggest it is time to integrate telehealth models into routine clinical practice

The uptake of telehealth in Australia has been increasing steadily, but continued uptake relies on clinical champions. Australian telehealth models cover a wide range of medical specialties and subspecialties.1 However, most telehealth services in Australia are currently optional, which acts as a barrier to the growth and uptake of these models.

Many successful telehealth networks have been established by incorporating telehealth models of care as part of the core business of hospitals and health services, rather than as an academic activity or a pilot project. While some may argue the evidence base for telemedicine is “weak”,2 we assert there is sufficient evidence for these models to be integrated into routine clinical practice.

Successful telehealth models

Telehealth models focus on a range of specialties and use telehealth for different purposes.1 For example, a telehealth model in South Australia focuses on providing mental health services from tertiary hospitals in Adelaide to patients in country hospitals and health centres. The burns unit at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Western Australia uses videoconferencing and “store and forward” digital photography…