The 3 Million Lives project which was launched earlier this year is an attempt to roll out telehealth services to three million UK citizens and follows a major study of telehealth which uncovered significant benefits, not least a 14 per cent reduction in bed days and an 8 per cent reduction in tariff costs.
However under the current British – and Australian – health regimes, hospitals receive funding for the people in hospital, not for their efforts at keeping them out of hospital. This will have to be addressed before telehealth can be rolled out widely.
According to Lisa Altman, director of health for BT Australia, Australia faces the same drivers as the UK in terms of the need for telehealth – namely a growing cohort of chronic disease sufferers, an ageing population and budget constraints.
“We have proved in Australia that telehealth does work. Now we need the funding model,” she added. “We have got some perverse funding models in Australia that work against this.”
While Australia has given a cautious thumbs-up to telehealth – earlier this year the Government unveiled a $20.6 million telehealth pilot for the NBN for example, and it has introduced Medicare claim numbers for doctors conducting video-consultations – it has yet to introduce formal funding models geared to encourage hospitals and health services to roll out telehealth services.
Ms Single was a speaker at today’s Health Information Technology conference in Western Australia and spoke to iTWire ahead of her presentation.
She said that in the UK the key barrier for telehealth to overcome was a lack of appropriate funding mechanisms. As in Australia, UK hospital funding is tied to hospital admissions rather than keeping people out of hospital.