Transforming Telehealth Delivery
9 April 2020
Transforming Telehealth Delivery
An investment in Telehealth
In March, the Federal Government announced a $2.4 billion health plan to help the Australian health sector fight and eliminate the risks posed by the COVID19 pandemic. The service will integrate information and communications technologies into standard health consultations, services, and treatments in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of the classified ‘high-risk’ population, which will mitigate the potentiality of exposure to the virus in crowded health facilities. Moreover, the Government announced that $25 million would be assigned to fund home medicines services, which would enable patients to have their PBS prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have the medicines delivered to their homes. These two complementary service offerings have sought to reduce the need for human-to–human interaction in the operations of the health sector, and thus, curb the exponential rate of infection evidenced on the national COVID19 curve. At Swoop Aero, we see the potential of drone transport networks in complementing the roll-out and functioning of telehealth services within Australia to alleviate the burden placed on regional and under-resourced health facilities. The integration of drone logistics networks, alongside the telehealth initiative, will undoubtedly improve the wellbeing and health outcomes of all patients as well as establish a resilient health system.
The recent announcement made by the Federal Government, in light of the COVID19 pandemic, that GPs, specialists, mental health, and allied health professionals would be able to bulk bill phone all video consultations with all patients, highlights the extent of the digital transformation within Australia. Yet, as with any new technological development, there remains room for improvement. For example, in regional Victoria, patients who had been tested for the COVID19 virus were required to wait up to a week to receive their test results due to the slow methods of ground transportation and delivery relied upon to service this regional community. Here is another area in which the integration of drone logistics networks to establish an air transportation service can improve the delivery of healthcare, whilst maintaining social distancing measures to contain the spread of viruses.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth refers to the use of telecommunications techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and essential health services over a large geographical distance. Telehealth services use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to deliver health services and transmit health information across varying distances to alleviate the pressures and resourcing capabilities of the district and regional health facilities, and healthcare providers.
There are many benefits to the implementation of telehealth services, particularly for remote and regional communities. These benefits include:
- Improved access to health services closer to home
- For the health professional, it increases access to patients, professional development and education opportunities, and specialist services
- It reduces the need for health professionals to travel and provides savings in associated costs for travel, accommodation, fuel consumption, and storage facilities of medications.
Australia and Telehealth
“Very remote” areas of Australia cover over 5.5 million km2 (72.5%) of Australia), and approximately 11% of Australia’s population resides within this geographical classification.
In remote and regional settings, the GP to patient ratio is disproportionately lower than in metropolitan areas of Australia. For every 100 000 people in remote areas, there are only 130 GP’s in the area that is able to provide essential primary care. Moreover, a GP may be required to travel up to five hours each way to reach patients in order to perform a routine consultation and/ or treatment of patients. Consequently, the health outcomes of regional Australians are comparatively much worse than for those people living in metropolitan centers, as evidenced by the 1.4x higher disease burden experienced by this remote population.
“If you have to travel a 50 kilometre trip there and a 50 kilometre trip back, that is a significant time and travel cost that could potentially be avoided by the use of telehealth,”
Dr. Simon Torvaldsen, Chair of the AMA WA general practice group
The adoption of telehealth services has allowed these health professionals to deal with and treat patients in remote areas with the same level of care as in the metropolitan centers of Australia. Patient access to primary care services improved by 64%. Furthermore, the support provided for rural health professionals and facilities increased by 66%, according to the NSW Ministry for Health report in 2015. In these rural areas, the GP ratio has increased due to a greater ability to engage doctors and related health professionals through online communication platforms in order to conduct routine consultations. Whilst there are marked improvements in the provision of and access to health services for a large and diverse population base, the geographical distance remains a complex hurdle in the realm of transportation and delivery of essential health supplies, which has been further magnified by the recent COVID19 pandemic. This obstacle necessitates the development and application of innovative methods that ensure more equitable access to and quality of healthcare supplies around the country, without large-scale transportation costs.
Swoop Aero is transforming the way Australia, and more broadly, the world is moving essential supplies.
Transformational Air Transportation to compliment the telehealth sector
An aeromedical logistics solution enables on-demand healthcare for regional communities in Australia, with a more sustainable and effective method: that’s what Swoop Aero provides, using drones. Our medical drone logistics service offering serves to complement the expanding telehealth sector as it streamlines the transportation and delivery of differing essential health supplies in line with the existing telehealth service. These supplies may include; blood samples, pathology samples, routine medications, and COVID19 tests and results. The integration of this air transportation service into the existing telehealth infrastructure has the capacity to dramatically improve healthcare access, patient outcomes as well as maximize the patient experience, this is due to five core focus points:
- There are no time delays or lags in the provision of medications, which can be coordinated with routine consultations, and delivered to any geographical point within 60 minutes of deployment
- Reduction in the number of visits to health facilities to obtain appropriate medication or drop off samples, test and pick up results
- Reduction in fuel consumption and emissions to transport goods, which represents a cost-saving to the patient and supplier
- Drones reduce the distribution costs associated with healthcare and medical deliveries, including halving wage bills of commuting health professionals as well as maintenance costs associated with the sustained use of ground transportation.
- Reduction of human interaction in the supply chain, to ensure that the likelihood of transmission of any communicable disease is kept to a minimum.
The use of safe, reliable, and sustainable aeromedical logistics networks, deployed as part of the Swoop Aero aeromedical logistics service, has the capacity to transform the Australian health sector in collaboration with the expansion of telehealth services.
Get in touch with Swoop Aero today to find out how drone logistics can transform the delivery of health supplies in your area.