Queensland Health officially announced the implementation of the Australian Teletrial Program (ATP) until October 4, 2026, which is underpinned by a $75 million commitment from the Commonwealth Medical Research Future Fund.
First piloted in 2018, the ATP leverages digital telehealth technology to create an interconnected network of rural, regional and remote clinical trial sites across Australia.
The initiative means clinicians and participants can take part in clinical trials remotely, overcoming the need for participants to travel long distances to metropolitan centres.
Queensland Health was chosen as the lead jurisdiction for the ATP, which counts Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory as program partners.
Queensland Health Deputy Director-General of Clinical Planning and Service Strategy Colleen Jen welcomed the long-term commitment to the program.
“The ATP is an innovative program that uses telecommunication technology to enhance the ability of people in rural, regional and remote areas to be involved in clinical trials closer to home – regardless of their location,” Jen said.
“I am proud to say Queensland has been successfully appointed to manage the national funding and lead the program.
“The program will ensure equitable access to care for our regional patients, as well as improving their health outcomes and quality of life.
“It can also increase collaboration between clinicians and healthcare workers, and develop workforce capability and capacity in rural, regional and remote areas.”
Jen said the Queensland component of the program would involve multiple Hospitals and Health Services.
“Many Hospitals and Health Services in Queensland already use telehealth technology in some form, so are set up to play a key role in helping the ATP achieve its goals,” she said.
“Townsville Hospital and Health Service will host the statewide regional clinical trial coordinating centre (RCCC), which is a specialist unit of senior clinical staff working collaboratively with primary and satellite sites to establish teletrials.”
ATP Director Kaye Hewson said the $75 million investment would be used to significantly expand the reach of clinical teletrials, providing improved health outcomes for rural, regional and remote Australians.
“The ATP has already conducted more than 90 clinical trials with 58 participants across 37 clinical sites since its launch, and the $75 million in Commonwealth funding aims to build on this success by 2026,” Ms Hewson said.
“The ATP has set a target of 5000 new rural, regional and remote clinical trial participants, 2400 new clinical trial sites, 90 new general practice clinical trial sites, 208 new trials and 5000 people trained to facilitate these services.
RCCC and Townsville Hospital and Health Service senior medical oncologist Professor Sabe Sabesan said Townsville was the ideal location for the coordinating centre for the ATP given the region’s work in pioneering the teletrial model.
“Our geographic profile and experience with telehealth means Townsville is ideally positioned to lead the work of the ATP in expanding access to clinical trials,” Prof Sabesan said.
“Our health service is incredibly dispersed, extending west from Richmond to Hughenden, north to Cardwell, south to Home Hill and east to Magnetic and Palm Islands to support a population of about 250,000 people.
“Townsville HHS has been successfully using telehealth services since 2007 to provide specialist care in rural and remote areas, and I have seen firsthand how important they have been in providing equitable access to healthcare.
‘‘It’s an honour to play such an integral role in the next step in Australia’s telehealth journey.”