Healthcare

Optimising telehealth use for rural and remote communities

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A new research initiative led by Professor Sarah Larkins from James Cook University aims to explore the effectiveness of telehealth in northern Queensland to improve healthcare access for rural and remote residents.

With over 700,000 people spread across 950,000 square kilometres, the region has been utilising telehealth services, but there is a need for better guidance on its optimal use in rural, regional, and remote (RRR) communities.

Supported by a substantial grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the research team will map existing telehealth practices to identify opportunities for enhancement.

Professor Larkins emphasises the importance of learning from current telehealth utilisation and collaborating with patients and healthcare providers to enhance its effectiveness.

The ultimate goal is to develop a comprehensive roadmap for telehealth implementation that offers guidance for both providers and patients accessing these services. The research outcomes are expected to benefit not only northern Queensland but also have broader applications for similar communities nationwide.

Telehealth has been shown to be clinically effective, safe, and well-received by consumers and clinicians, potentially increasing access to care across various disciplines. However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from experiences like those in Norway, where telehealth adoption for hospital outpatient appointments has faced challenges despite initial support.

Understanding the factors influencing telehealth adoption and usage, especially in remote regions like northern Queensland, is crucial for overcoming barriers to access. By identifying these challenges, tailored solutions can be developed to ensure equitable healthcare access for all Australians, regardless of their geographic location.

The research project is set to span five years, with the aim of creating a more efficient and accessible healthcare system through the strategic implementation of telehealth services.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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