Briefing paper

Telehealth services in Australia should be supported and continued beyond the immediacy of the pandemic. The roll-out of the telehealth program during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a public health success, with limited evidence to suggest that telehealth services are harmful to population health and well-being. Nevertheless, its rapid implementation has resulted in a large government spending for new MBS items and ICT infrastructures. Therefore, extending the telehealth program beyond the pandemic will require the consideration of fiscal sustainability on future budgets.

Drawing on government and non-government research, this Issues Brief identifies and investigates potential barriers to cost-effectiveness, efficiency and equity in existing telehealth policies. Where possible, Medicare data has been analysed to provide quantitative evidence of these issues in Australia. Recommendations are made for refining telehealth policies in order to maintain health system sustainability and to achieve best outcomes for the whole population. This includes consideration of:

  • Improving and finetuning funding for telehealth;
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impacts of telehealth services and rewarding those activities that result in better health outcomes;
  • Establishing payments that reflect resource inputs and time commitment required;
  • Establishing a primary care data set, linkable to other health data to support evidence based funding reforms; and
  • Developing a set of national telehealth standards and suite of education programs.
Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
Deeble Institute Issues Brief no.43