Video-based telehealth in Australian primary health care: Current use and future potential
Bywood, Petra Teresia
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Many Australians have limited access to health-care services due to a range of barriers, including geographic distance and restricted mobility, which telehealth can potentially address. This paper reviews the current and potential use of video consultation in primary health care in Australia, drawing on international literature. There is substantial evidence of high patient satisfaction, but many studies have methodological limitations. Overall, evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness is weak. There is reasonable evidence for diagnosis, home care and specialist consultations by GPs with patients present. Two telehealth initiatives using video consultation are briefly presented. Both provide evidence that video consultation has a valuable role to play, but does not obviate the need for face-to-face consultations. Video consultation challenges traditional professional roles, particularly those of nurses, and can improve health workers’ skills and job satisfaction. More fundamentally, telehealth challenges the traditional distinction between primary and secondary care. This can be a source of resistance but may ultimately be one of its strengths. Appropriately targeted video consultation has much potential to improve the delivery of primary health care in Australia, particularly in rural and remote regions.