Telehealth gaining traction in regional Qld thanks to NBN

QUEENSLANDERS are embracing new telehealth services enabled by better access to fast broadband to better manage family health from home, according to a new report released today.

The NBN Digital Health At Home Report, shows 72 per cent of respondents living in regional or rural Australia have delayed a visit to a GP, with reasons for this including to prevent wasting time, losing money and having to take days off work.

With a number of regional Queenslanders having to travel significant distances for specialist healthcare, the research highlights how access to fast broadband and telehealth services (such as GP video conferencing and in-home monitoring for the elderly) can help time-poor Aussies manage family health from home.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Regional Aussies are harnessing telehealth to manage health at home: Nearly half of respondents who use telehealth (42 per cent) are using it to better manage personal or family health. More than one third (38 per cent) access it for speed and convenience, and one in five(27 per cent) use it to help make better informed health decisions;
  • Information is key to a happier and healthier future in regional Australia; with better access to telehealth services more than half (59 per cent) of respondents would feel more equipped to make health decisions, feel safer knowing they can monitor health from home (53 per cent) and be more efficient and productive (46 per cent);
  • Telehealth is helping to bridge the health divide; of those aware of telehealth, one in three (30 per cent) regionally located respondents use telehealth and one in five of all Aussies who have used telehealth (20 per cent) did so to access health services not available in their location.

Dr. Ginni Mansberg, GP and family health expert says juggling work and family commitments can mean getting to the doctor is tough.

"Often people put off a visit purely because they don't have the time.

"Now, as more Australians gain access to the NBN network, they are being empowered to manage their health from home.

"With access to fast broadband, everything from testing blood pressure and skin cancer checks, to in-home monitoring for the elderly, can be done online from the comfort of people's homes."

The rollout of the NBN network continues to gain momentum in regional Queensland, with more than 360,000 homes and businesses now able to connect across the state including parts of regions such as Townsville, Gympie, Mackay, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Cairns and Caboolture.

"Access to health services for Aussies living in rural and remote Australia is a real issue," said Dr David Hansen, CEO, Australian E-Health Research Centre.

"Unfortunately, not all Aussies are receiving the medical attention they need.

"However, as GPs and specialists start to offer digital services, people can receive quality care through uninterrupted videoconferencing and other broadband enabled delivery methods no matter where they live.

"Our recent trials testing telehealth applications over fast broadband demonstrated these services can help improve patient outcomes and reduce costs to the healthcare system."

  • When Queenslanders have a health related problem, question or illness:
    • 11 per cent seek advise or guidance from a friend or family member
    • 22 per cent go online to find more info
    • 6 per cent go to the chemist
    • 60 per cent go to the GP or another medical professional
  • The reasons Queenslanders didn't book or delayed a GP appointment:
    • 27 per cent did not want to waste time sitting in the waiting room
    • 13 per cent concerned they'd catch an illness from other patients in the meeting room
    • 13 per cent concerned about taking time off work
    • 6 per cent concerned about taking kids in
    • 6 per cent say the distance is too far
    • 29 per cent were unsure whether they even had to go
  • The telehealth info and services Queenslanders access are:
    • 22 per cent - patient testimonials to learn more about a topic, procedure or facility
    • 73 per cent - general health info
    • 26 per cent - fitness apps / self management tools
    • 30 per cent - to book appointment with a doctor / specialist / health professional
    • 16 per cent - per cent email comms
    • 20 per cent - online chat / instant message with a doctor, specials or health professional
    • 9 per cent - Skype / video chat with a doctor, specials or health professional
    • 8 per cent - online support (e.g. Beyond Blue)
    • 15 per cent - accessing electronic records
  • The reasons why Queenslanders use telehealth
    • 40 per cent - to better manage personal or family health
    • 51 per cent - for increased speed and convenience
    • 22 per cent - can't get in to see a doctor at a convenient time
    • 31 per cent - to avoid being exposed to germs / illnesses in the waiting room
    • 16 per cent  - to reduce the need to take time off work or go to the doctor
    • 2 per cent - too embarrassed to go to the GP and discuss a particular symptom / problem
    • 16 per cent - to help make better informed health decisions about Gps, hospitals and general health and wellbeing
    • 2 per cent - to read / watch patient testimonials / research and make better informed health decisions
    • 8 per cent - to help take care of / monitor an elderly parent or relative
    • 14 per cent to access info not available in your location
    • 4 per cent - to seek parental advise