The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) requested Access Economics to report on the financial and externality impacts of ubiquitous high-speed broadband in relation to health and aged care costs, in particular the impacts that would result from increased use of:
tele-medicine for remote consultations;
remote home-based monitoring of chronic-disease patients and the aged; and
remote training of medical professionals (using haptics); while
excluding the benefits of personalised electronic health records (EHRs).
The report was required to:
identify and articulate the nature of the impacts;
determine a methodology to estimate these impacts, both on a net present value (NPV) and an annualised cash basis; and
provide high-level estimates of the impacts.
Tele-health offers the potential for significant gains to Australia's population, especially for people who are elderly or who live in rural or remote communities. Unfortunately, however, despite a myriad of tele-health studies, it is difficult to measure such benefits. Tele-health studies to date have been constrained by poor economic and health data and methods.
Most studies have, however, shown that tele-health is cheaper and faster (and at least equally effective) compared to transporting patients or health care providers over large distances. Thus, it should be possible to estimate time and money savings at a national level, if not health gains.
There does not appear to be sufficient data to estimate the benefits of online training for rural / remote medical professionals.
Using a combination of a national level United States (US) study into one aspect of tele-health (tele-consulting) and a national level Australian study that was mostly based on EHRs but had tele-health components, Access Economics estimates that steady state benefits to Australia from wide scale implementation of tele-health may be in the vicinity of $2 billion to $4 billion dollars per annum.