NBN to boost telehealth program

The NBN Telehealth Pilot Program has been rolled out to deliver services to patients in the national broadband network (NBN).
The existing telehealth program already makes it easier for people to receive care and advice via videoconferencing when and where they need it.
Six months after the government introduced Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations, uptake has grown steadily with more than 7000 services provided by over 1200 clinicians around Australia, mostly to rural and remote areas.
Telehealth is a cost effective, real-time and convenient alternative to the more traditional face-to-face way of providing medical care and advice.
It removes many of the barriers, such as distance, time and cost, which prevent patients from accessing timely and appropriate healthcare services.
Over time, the NBN will provide an enhanced nationwide platform that allows homes, doctor surgeries, pharmacies, clinics, aged-care facilities and allied health professionals to connect to affordable, reliable, high-speed and high-capacity broadband.
Health minister, Tanya Plibersek said the program brings together two of the government’s key priorities – the NBN and providing patients with the care they need– when they need it and where they need it.
“The NBN Telehealth Pilot Program will provide to eligible participants in NBN early rollout areas a range of innovative services delivered through pilots funded under the program,” she said.
“These will include having health indicators monitored remotely – for instance, your doctor being able to take your blood pressure online while you are at home – or receiving medical consultations and healthy living support in the home.”
Minister for health and ageing Mark Butler said that older Australians would stand to gain the most from the boost to telehealth services.
“As we age, health issues tend to be more prevalent and we’re much more likely to require care and support from a wider range of health professionals,” he said.
“Expanding telehealth services to older Australians still living in their own homes will help health professionals identify potential health problems earlier, reduce the need for older Australians to travel to receive treatment and increase access to healthcare services and specialists.”
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said said he expected successful pilots will commence providing services from July under the NBN Telehealth Pilot Program.
Draft program guidelines for the telehealth pilot program have been released for consultation. Final guidelines will be released when applications open in February/March this year.

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