Our own Professor Alexandra Martiniuk, University of Sydney, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Translating Research into Practice Fellow, recently made the case for increased telehealth adoption and wrote about this in the Medical Journal of Australia InSight publication.

MJA InSight is Australia’s highest circulating medical e-newsletter and is trusted by the medical community to deliver reliable and insightful news and analysis.

Prof Alex used her invited guest writer space to make a strong case for health practitioners to lean in and do what is hard to achieve by advocating to help as they can to facilitate the adoption of telehealth for amenable services.

Taking a look back over the 7 years since the Australian Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth items were introduced in 2011 – Alex’s article explores the multiple indisputable benefits of the telehealth modality of service delivery, highlighting the Royal Far West Telecare for Kids program as an exemplar of how digital modalities of service delivery can bring otherwise difficult or inaccessible services directly into schools and homes for rural and remote families in Australia.

Alex noted the Government’s 2017 endorsing addition of 23 MBS items for telehealth covering GPs, nurse practitioners, midwives, practice nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers, and an additional 11 MBS items for specialists –  in an attempt to support uptake. But Alex also noted the poor uptake of some of these MBS items, specifically telehealth delivered mental health services by several allied health professional types, despite Government efforts to update and adapt policy (such as dropping the requirement of in-person sessions) to encourage much needed access.

Alex notes, the evidence is in – telehealth models, like Royal Far West Telecare for Kids, are expanding and improving health access and outcomes. And now we need health professionals to lean in and adopt telehealth service delivery and referral into their regular practice regime where suitable for the provider/client and condition.

Martiniuk notes, now is the time to move beyond thinking of this as an innovation or being an early adopter to telehealth, and settle this modality as a part of service as usual. It’s only through doing so that we will problem-solve through the work-flow challenges and iterate toward improvements to improve health for all.