Mark Butler announces NHMRC funding for six telehealth research projects

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The Albanese Government has announced that $5 million will be invested by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in six research projects focused on telehealth.

Telehealth emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant platform to deliver patient services. In 2019, telehealth accounted for just one out of 2,000 Medicare services delivered between April and June. In 2022, telehealth accounted for 330 out of 2,000 Medicare services, and 620 out of 2,000 GP-specific Medicare services. One in four people had at least one telehealth consultation in the last financial year.

The six projects will each receive close to $1 million to develop an evidence base that can inform future health policy on telehealth while supporting health practitioners and service providers to enhance their current telehealth services.

Professor Jonathon Karnon of Flinders University will lead a collaborative project to improve the design and application of virtual emergency department services in Australia.

Professor Meredith Makeham and a team from the University of Sydney will explore the safety, quality, acceptability, and sustainability of using telehealth to provide care to people living in residential aged care.

James Cook University researcher Professor Sarah Larkins will investigate the experience of telehealth providers and patients in North Queensland to optimise health service access, quality and safety in rural and remote Australia.

“The expansion of telehealth services, during the early days of COVID, has been described as ‘10 years of change in 10 days’ and that is not an exaggeration," said Health Minister Mark Butler. “Telehealth has become a permanent feature of the health system today, as both patients and providers enjoy its convenience and potential to remove the tyranny of distance that has sometimes made health service delivery so challenging for rural and remote Australia, in particular.

NHMRC CEO Professor Steve Wesselingh said, “Targeted Calls for Research support researchers to address specific health issues or topics that would benefit from further health and medical research.

“Ensuring the quality and safety of Australia’s national telehealth services through targeted projects, such as those announced today, will help to optimise and future-proof the system.

“These projects will be able to provide us with a strong evidence base for telehealth services, and how they can be optimised to provide significant improvements to health at both an individual and population level.”