Telehealth - GPs complain

COVID-19 crisis has hastened the introduction of telehealth technology, yet GPs are reporting a drop in revenue

Melbourne, May 14: As COVID-19 has precipitated the rapid rollout of widespread telehealth services; it is also leading to a “drop off” in the interactions of citizens with the healthcare system.

Professor Chris Bain – Lead Monash Digital Health Department, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University said there are “risks associated with telehealth services, including the security of the communication channels.

“Aside from the immediate risks around technology and its use in providing healthcare services, we are also hearing reports from numerous jurisdictions about a relative drop off in the interactions of citizens with the healthcare system”.

A survey of 175 GPs, found about half had lost more than 30 per cent of their revenue. Conducted by The Medical Republic, an estimated of only one-third reported losses of less than 30 per cent.

Professor Bain, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the health industry, including 12 in clinical medicine, believes that there is need to explore “this reduction in interaction” from a digital health perspective.

He said that it was necessary to measure how much of the “reduction” is related to the fact that most of these telehealth services do not allow measurement of vital parameters – like remote assessment of blood pressure, blood sugar and other factors that would “typically be very easily measured in face-to-face consultations.

“It will be interesting to see the extent to which some of these changes, for example, the huge growth in the use of telehealth, are permanent”.

Professor Bain, who is Professor of Practice in Digital Health, is vigilant of this likely permanency and what life might look like after resumption of normal healthcare system in Australia.

He asked for “a dedicated period of evaluation, facilitated by government, and preferably funded by the government too” for a stable platform from which GPs can continue to deliver safe and sustainable telehealth services.

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