Telehealth using high quality satellite internet has been shown to improve health service delivery in three very remote Aboriginal communities, however, further expansion of telehealth in this and other areas of the Northern Territory (NT) is limited by the lack of adequate internet. Despite the growing evidence of the benefits of telehealth there remains limited uptake in the NT in the primary health care sector.
A national survey through Broadband for the Bush Alliance (B4BA) and its member organisations into consumers’ experiences of telecommunications and telehealth services was done. The survey was supported by detailed case studies based on semi-structured interviews. It was found there were a number of barriers to telehealth uptake at the national level: Lack of adequate internet; consumers not being aware of, or knowing how, to access telehealth; lack of access to clinicians providing telehealth services; lack of Medicare item numbers for telehealth and the lack of resourcing at the patient end. The research indicated there needs to be investment into telecommunications infrastructure, public education about telehealth, an increase in Medicare telehealth item numbers and resourcing for primary health care services to support telehealth expansion particularly in rural, regional and remote areas.
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