Australians living in regional and remote areas experience worse health outcomes and access to health services than Australians in major cities.
Factors such as geographic spread, low population density, limited infrastructure and higher costs for delivering rural and remote health care can limit access to important health services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for telehealth services. By November 2020, more than 3.2 million regional and remote Australians had accessed telehealth services.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that technological advancements are enabling health services to be more digitally-oriented, from patient care to record keeping and infrastructure management.
Digital health services use technology to collect and share health information. This improves the quality, cost and accessibility of health services and infrastructure. Technology-enabled out-of-hospital healthcare models include community, home-based and virtual care.
Enabling digital health technologies in regional and remote areas of Australia can improve equity of access and outcomes, reduce costs associated with delivering health care and reduce avoidable hospitalisations.
Potential options to address the initiative include enabling digital health in regional hubs to improve the accessibility of health services for Australians living in regional and remote areas.
This would require the upgrade of existing facilities in regional Australia, and training for the existing health workforce, to enable them to provide digital health services.
Suitable telecommunications infrastructure will also be required to enable the transmission of data and video to health facilities in regional Australia.
Proponent(s) to be identified.