When it comes to accessing healthcare, patients living in rural or remote areas are often at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in metro areas. For health services, delivering high-quality care to patients in isolated regions often involves a plethora of barriers, from lack of accessibility to fragmented health records. Add a global pandemic into the mix and accessing high-quality healthcare can seem an inconceivable challenge.
However, innovations in digital health technologies are helping to make healthcare equality a reality, regardless of location or unprecedented external factors. And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia in 2020 we saw just how vital a role digital health played in such an urgent health crisis. Health services that support rural and remote communities can benefit from the automation and interoperability that certain digital health technologies can enable. Telstra Health’s Communicare software, for example, enables multi-disciplinary teams to access configurable workflow and clinical items to support specific programs and conditions such as renal disease, and it can assist healthcare teams in implementing preventative healthcare measures. This helps to support patients in the long-term as well as the short-term.
Communicare supports more than 50 per cent of Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS), covers more than 400,000 medical records and is used by more than 8,000 healthcare professionals nationwide. The digital solution has been created in collaboration with rural and remote health services and designed with supporting the health and wellbeing of people living in rural and remote communities, including many Indigenous Peoples.
Swiftly after the COVID-19 virus first crept into our communities last year, we witnessed the growth and acceptance of digital health that was expected to happen over years happen within weeks and months. Digital health was a driving force in enabling access to high-quality, safe healthcare to continue and to deal with the impacts and challenges from the COVID-19 virus.
In fact, digital technologies such as telehealth and other virtual care solutions and electronic prescriptions for accessing medications were made more accessible to patients thanks to digital technologies. And such technologies are supporting the delivery of high-quality healthcare in some of Australia’s most rural areas.
Transport challenges are all too familiar to people in rural or remote areas, and regularly interfere with accessing healthcare, often deterring patients from attending health appointments. Some digital health solutions have evolved to address transport access issues. For example, Communicare’s integrated transport management system enables an Aboriginal Medical Service to schedule transport for patients who require this, enabling continuity of care.
Furthermore, maintaining good health and wellbeing among certain patients in rural and remote areas can require more than recording and monitoring medical information; an individual’s social and family history, and other important environmental factors and experiences, also need to be considered – and this is where some digital health solutions can truly shine. Digital technologies such as Communicare have the capability to provide a holistic, patient-centric view across a patient’s entire journey through the health service. This enables a healthcare provider to analyse and evaluate outcomes and equips them with information and insights to help make more informed decisions to improve healthcare within their community.
Digital health can play a pivotal role in improving accessibility to high-quality healthcare for remote or rural-living patients, and, as we saw in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be the vital support source for continuing delivery of care during an urgent health crisis.