Partnerships moving knowledge, not people across Northern Australia

  • Experts at University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health.
    Experts at University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health.
  • Experts at University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health.
    Experts at University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health.
  • Northern Australia ECHOs.
    Northern Australia ECHOs.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) is responsible for leading innovative research into industry-led challenges facing the development of Northern Australia.

With a landmass comprising over 53 per cent of Australia, and a population of 1.3 million people – many of whom live in remote and regional centres – Northern Australia presents both opportunity and challenge.

Research into health service delivery and models of care across the north remains one of the CRCNA’s key focus areas. The CRCNA understands building a collaborative and interactive network of mental health and healthcare workers is an important part of improving service delivery, especially for those in rural and remote contexts.

We do this by bringing industry, research, regional development, jurisdictions and international partners together to investigate new technologies, services and models of care to benefit health outcomes of people in the north. Our programs also build capacity and deliver training for our northern-based workforce, researchers and students.

A new three-year partnership between the University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health (COH) and the CRCNA will expand the Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) initiative into Northern Australia.

Project ECHO is a telementoring model used throughout the world to support health service providers and professionals. Sessions are delivered monthly by a multidisciplinary panel of experts and focus on a specific topic. Our partnership with the COH sees two new ECHOs established – one aimed at improving telehealth skills and capability in the region (the Telehealth Skills ECHO) and one supporting mental healthcare delivery and access to services (the Health eMinds ECHO).

Both ECHOs are open to join for anyone working in health care, including allied, community and mental health services (clinical and non-clinical). We want to reach as many people as possible in the north.

According to COH Director, Professor Anthony Smith, clinical telehealth training is one of the most important requirements for preparing staff to deliver telehealth.

‘A well-trained and prepared workforce will enhance the likelihood of achieving an effective and successful telehealth program and encourage the uptake and sustainability of telehealth,’ he said.

The Telehealth Skills ECHO helps healthcare professionals better understand and use telehealth as a tool to improve their connection with their patients and help engage, treat and monitor their patients remotely across the north.

More than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a healthcare professional for their mental health (AIHW, 2022).

The Health eMinds ECHO brings together those working in mental health, to share ideas and knowledge to foster a supportive network across the north.

CRCNA Chief Operations Officer Carla Keith said the Health eMinds ECHO is an opportunity for anyone working in the mental health space to connect and build a community of best practice.

‘Delivering fit-for-purpose mental health support is complex, especially in areas where timely access to services can be challenging.

‘By building a network of support for people working in this space, we’re hoping to improve access to information for providers and their patients,’ she said.

For more information about the Telehealth Skills and Health eMinds ECHOs, visit crcna.com.au.

The CRCNA is an initiative of the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and is investing $75 million of federal funds over 10 years (2017 to 2027) to deliver industry-led research collaborations which de-risk development and support decision-makers through an evidence base to plan future investment for Northern Australia.

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