NBN regional focus vital for digital health

31 October 2019

The National Rural Health Alliance, the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia, welcomed the NBN’s announcement today of a renewed focus on regional Australia.

National Rural Health Alliance CEO Dr Gabrielle O’Kane said that digital connectivity was still a huge issue for rural communities accessing health services.

“There’s still a desperate need to improve telecommunications infrastructure and connectivity in the bush because that’s the backbone of digital health services,” said Dr O’Kane.

“That’s why it’s great to see the NBN announcing today that they will restructure to have more of a focus on rural Australia. We also welcome the NBN’s acknowledgement of digital health as a priority area.”

The Alliance will co-host a digital health workshop with the NBN on Friday 8 November in Sydney, which will be a chance to get the key stakeholders together and start the conversation about a long-term digital health strategy.

“Regional Australia is still lagging behind the cities when it comes to digital inclusion, according to the 2019 Digital Inclusion Index,” said Dr O’Kane.

“And digital literacy is lower so there is a real need to increase knowledge, confidence and capability for rural communities and their health workforce.”

The Alliance also welcomed the introduction of new Medicare items for GP and non-specialist video consultations in the most remote parts of Australia, which will begin from tomorrow, 1 November.

“The rural health sector has been lobbying for some time for these new Medicare items. They will help some of the most remote Australians access the health services they need without having to make the long journey to the nearest town.

“We also want to see the introduction of Medicare items for allied health video consultations in remote Australia to enable access to a wider range of health services, and we will continue to lobby the Government for this at every opportunity.”