Monday, August 16, 2010

E-Health Features at the Labor Party Campaign Election Launch – Sort Of!

Prime Minister Gillard focussed on E-Health at the Labor Party Campaign Launch today, as reported a few hours ago on the blog.

Coverage has now appeared here:

Gillard stakes political future on broadband and health at Labor launch

  • Patricia Karvelas, Political Correspondent
  • From: The Australian
  • August 16, 2010 12:45PM

JULIA Gillard has vowed to transform the health system by allowing rural and regional Australians to see specialists using videoconferencing and online consultations.

Linking her national broadband network to the health of Australians, the Prime Minister said that from July 1 2012 Australians would have access to rebates to see doctors through the internet as part of a $392.3 million investment.

Ms Gillard said in the middle of the night a parent with a child with swelling or rash would be able to get help through the power of broadband access to the internet.

She said Tony Abbott would let children down, while Labor would complete the education revolution for every child in every school.

More here:

and here:

Updated: NBN to deliver online consultations: Gillard

Fibre-to-the-home network essential in delivering healthcare to regional and rural Australia, PM claims

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has used the Labor Party’s official campaign launch to link the future health of Australians with the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Speaking in Queensland, Gillard said the Government would use the speed and connectivity of the NBN to facilitate online consultations between patients and doctors via videoconferencing.

The $392.3 million initiative would see Medicare rebates issued from 1 July 2012 for some 495,000 online consultation services over four years to rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

The scheme would also include financial incentives for general practitioners and specialists to participate in delivering online services in tandem with an expansion of Labor’s GP after-hours helpline.

The new service would provide a link between a nurse or GP and the patient allowing online triage and basic medical advice to be delivered via videoconferencing.

A fund to support the training and supervision of health professionals on how to use online technologies would also be set up.

According to Gillard the NBN would be essential in curbing the rates of cancer-related deaths in regional and rural Australia.

“It is unacceptable to me, it is offensive to me, that if you live in rural and regional Australia you are three times more like to die within five years if you are diagnosed with cancer, than other Australians,” she said.

“That is because it is harder for people in regional and rural Australia to get access to the services, to the healthcare professionals they need. I want to transform that relying on the National Broadband Network.”

Patients would also be able to access specialist healthcare staff via dedicated videoconferencing units at their local GP’s office or medical centre, rather than commuting to the specialists’ offices.

According to the Government, more widespread utilisation of tele-health services outside of hospitals had been held back by lack of infrastructure, poor bandwidth and lack of Medicare rebates for consultations delivered online.

More here:

and here:

Julia Gillard announces $392m health plan

  • From: AAP
  • August 16, 2010 1:08PM

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has announced a $392 million plan to modernise the health system, including allowing patients to access Medicare rebates for online consultations.

Ms Gillard said a re-elected Labor Government would use the internet to modernise the health system by funding online consultations and videoconferencing.

"For the first time, patients will be able to access Medicare rebates for online consultations across a range of specialties, helping Australians, including those in our regions and outer suburbs, get the healthcare they need," Ms Gillard said.

The announcement was made as Ms Gillard addressed the party faithful at the official launch of the Labor party in Brisbane.

The package includes $250 million for online consultations, providing about 495,000 services over four years for rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

There will also be financial incentives for GPs and specialists to deliver the online services at a cost of $56.8 million and an expansion of the GP after-hours helpline at a cost of $50 million.

Labor would also spend $35 million to support training for health professionals using online technologies.

and lastly here (so far).

Labor promise: Medicare rebates for online consults

16th Aug 2010

Andrew Bracey

LABOR has promised to establish Medicare rebates for online consultations if returned to government this weekend, with an announcement today it will allocate $250.5 million over the next four years.

The new funding would be shared “across a range of specialties”, according to a Labor statement, along with an additional $56.8 million in financial incentives that would be available to GPs and specialists who participated in delivering online services.

The latest election promise, which Labor estimated would provide about 495,000 additional services to Australians in remote, rural and outer metropolitan areas, has been welcomed by GP groups.

RACGP president Dr Chris Mitchell said that while more detail was needed regarding the levels of rebates and what they would cover, the college would be keen to work with a re-elected government to implement the program.

“There are issues such as having a quality framework around these [rebates] to make sure they are being used appropriately, but it is very innovative suggestion,” Dr Mitchell told MO.

“While this is not a substitution for face-to-face consultations, there are in fact a number of consultations that could very effectively be delivered through [telehealth].”

More here:

I guess I have two reactions to this:

First these seem like reasonable initiatives to help improve services to those patients who do not have easy direct access to specialists. I do wonder why there needs to be delay in implementation to 2011 and 2012 given how well Skype video conferencing works - which would be adequate for many consultations today while faster services are eventually rolled out - given the full NBN delivery time table is 7-8 years.

Second I am a little concerned that if these funds are available that they might have been better spent on more coherent and strategic delivery of other, more central, e-Health initiatives as per the National E-Health Strategy. Drip feeding funds into e-Health is really not the way to provide the leadership, governance, coherence and support the e-Health space needs.

One sort of gets the feeling this sort of ‘almost e-Health’ is being used politically for points scoring while we are still in the dark about what is happening with the harder and rather more important stuff in my view. Anyway at least e-Health seems to be a bit more ‘top of mind’ than it has been to date which is a good thing!

I liked the comment posted in response to the flash announcement. Good thinking 99!


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