The reported benefits of telehealth for rural Australians

Moffatt, Jennifer J. and Eley, Diann S. (2010) The reported benefits of telehealth for rural Australians. Australian Health Review, 34 3: 276-281. doi:10.1071/AH09794

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Author Moffatt, Jennifer J.
Eley, Diann S.
Title The reported benefits of telehealth for rural Australians
Journal name Australian Health Review   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0156-5788
Publication date 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1071/AH09794
Volume 34
Issue 3
Start page 276
End page 281
Total pages 6
Editor Andrew Wilson
Place of publication Australia
Publisher CSIRO Publishing
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Subject C1
1605 Policy and Administration
1117 Public Health and Health Services
Formatted abstract
Objective. A literature review was conducted to identify the reported benefits attributed to telehealth for people living and professionals working in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Data sources. Scopus and relevant journals and websites were searched using the terms: telemedicine, telehealth, telepsychiatry, teledermatology, teleradiology, Australia, and each state and territory. Publications since 1998 were included.

Study selection
. The initial search resulted in 176 articles, which was reduced to 143 when research reporting on Australian rural, regional or remote populations was selected.

Data synthesis. A narrative review was conducted using an existing ‘benefits’ framework. Patients are reported to have benefited from: lower costs and reduced inconvenience while accessing specialist health services; improved access to services and improved quality of clinical services. Health professionals are reported to have benefited from: access to continuing education and professional development; provision of enhanced local services; experiential learning, networking and collaboration.

. Rural Australians have reportedly benefited from telehealth. The reported improved access and quality of clinical care available to rural Australians through telemedicine and telehealth may contribute to decreasing the urban–rural health disparities. The reported professional development opportunities and support from specialists through the use of telehealth may contribute to improved rural medical workforce recruitment and retention.

What is known about the topic?
An extensive international literature has reported on the efficacy of telehealth, and to a lesser extent the clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness of telemedicine. Systematic reviews conclude that the quality of the studies preclude definitive conclusions being drawn about clinical and cost-effectiveness, although there is some evidence of effective clinical outcomes and the potential for cost-benefits. Little attention has been paid to the benefits reported for people who live in rural and remote Australia, despite this being a rationale for the use of telehealth in rural and remote locations.

What does this paper add? Patients in rural and remote locations in Australia are reported to benefit from telehealth by increased access to health services and up-skilled health professionals. Health professionals are reported to benefit from telehealth by up-skilling from increased contact with specialists and increased access to professional development. The review findings suggest that one strategy, the increased use of telehealth, has the potential to reduce the inequitable access to health services and the poorer health status that many rural Australians experience, and contribute to addressing the on-going problem of the recruitment and retention of the rural health workforce.

What are the implications for practitioners?
The use of telehealth appears to be a path to up-skilling for rural and remote practitioners.
Keyword Rural
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Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Medicine Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 59 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Sun, 12 Sep 2010, 00:07:19 EST