Proper guidelines are benefiting Government’s telehealth initiative: LifeSize

Unified communications vendor sees stricter rules around telehealth benefiting the initiative

The Federal Government’s telehealth initiative may not have achieved its intended goal, but LifeSize A/NZ country manager, Gerry Forsythe, said that is finally changing.

“With no real guidelines behind it, the one-off incentive payment of $6000 was not really taken on properly, though it is coming together now,” he said.

In 2011, the Federal Government introduced an initiative to encourage the use of telehealth by offering an incentive payment of $6000 to medical practitioners.

However, the rules were tightened and funding was reduced in 2012 following a less than anticipated uptake of telehealth.

Despite the reduction of the incentive to $4800, Forsythe said the positive outcome is that proper guidelines have been drafted for the rules of the funding.

“A doctor that qualifies for the funding gets half of that payment upfront, but to get the rest of the payment comes after proof of ten full consultations over video,” he said.

The new guidelines may be a good start, though Forsythe admits it is somewhat challenging for vendors such as LifeSize to reengage customers who have “already spent the initial $6000 on the repayment of their luxury car and downloaded Skype instead.”

Telehealth today

Forsythe is seeing more and more younger doctors in hospitals walking around with tablets, a trend he said LifeSize is well positioned to capitalise on with its mobile solutions.

“Telehealth is changing, so we have to facilitate these people,” he said.

Despite the continued absence of the NBN, Forsythe adds that a “very good” video conference can be run on the existing network available in Australia today.

While many associate the NBN and telehealth with running HD videos at high frame rates, Forsythe said the high speed network has the potential to deliver patient records almost instantly.

“While today’s network is good, that’s where the NBN is really going to benefit telehealth,” he said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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