The tyranny of distance is a major barrier for remote Australians seeking medical assistance for chronic disease.
Almost 50 per cent of Australians suffer chronic diseases such as cancer, mental health or diabetes and a further 13 million are at risk of developing chronic disease.
Access to primary healthcare practitioners who can deliver lifestyle interventions is key to addressing these challenges, but Australians living in remote and regional areas are disadvantaged by limited access to professional medical help.
Now, a new partnership between CSIRO's Data61 and regional allied health network Health Team Australia (HTA) will help address inequities in rural and remote areas by providing an easy to use telehealth solution, expected to connect up to 20,000 patients with online healthcare professionals.
An alliance between HTA and Coviu, a CSIRO Data61 project, will see Coviu's real-time communication online video platform rolled out to HTA customers across Australia from November last year.
The new video consultation service will extend existing healthcare solutions and services from professionals such as exercise physiologists, dieticians, psychologists, mental health nurses and occupational therapists.
HTA's new online service will be offered to patients via a range of partners across Australia.
Non-profit YMCA in Victoria, NSW and the ACT has already begun delivering these services to metropolitan communities and are now extending their health plan and coaching services to those that don’t have access to a local YMCA.
HTA spokesperson Andrew Mahony is excited about the impact the partnership will have on rural and remote communities.
"Coviu gives health professionals direct access to the lives of remote patients so they can prescribe a health plan that is meaningful to their lives and relevant to their situation," Mr Mahony said.
"It enables us to provide individuals and organisations in rural and remote areas with evidence-based support and on-demand access to allied health experts.
"Coviu gives people the opportunity to stay in their community for longer as they age and continue to play a meaningful role in the community."
Coviu Project Director, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, said the platform was designed to seamlessly integrate into existing workflows, allowing practitioners to live-share medical data and images.
"Approximately 10 per cent of the Australian population is spread across 90 percent of its area, and these people have poor access to medical specialists that's taken for granted in large metropolitan areas," Dr Pfeiffer said.
"There is a real need to make video consultations a standard delivery mechanism of health services across Australia. Coviu does so in an affordable manner with the tools that clinicians need."
An analysis of Medicare statistics from 2016 showed that less than 4 per cent of health practitioners in private practice currently provide telehealth services to their patients.
Data61 CEO Adrian Turner said this was an example of how Australian start-ups are working with industry to transform the health sector and deliver new services to Australians.
"By collaborating with industry partners we can help deploy digital technologies on a national scale, providing cost effective and tailored health services to all Australians," Mr Turner said.
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