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Australians unprepared for digital and telehealth

By Amy Sarcevic
Thursday, 02 April, 2020

Australians unprepared for digital and telehealth

In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 and maintain social distancing practices, the Australian Government has made all digital and telehealth services available through bulk-billing. However, new research has found that four out of five Australians are “not confident” in using health technology, with 46% saying they would rather see a professional in person.

To date, only 8% of the population has used “virtual care” and nine out of ten have hesitated to use some form of digital health care, due to underlying concerns about the technology.

Precise concerns are not yet known. However, the threat of data leakage as a result of cyber attack — or compromised health advice due to inadequate physical assessment — may be partly to blame for the hesitation.

The results are concerning, given the growing demand for both physical and mental healthcare providers during the COVID-19 crisis. The demand is particularly high among ‘baby boomers’ who are also the most hesitant cohort, according to the research.

Without appropriate tech literacy or confidence, people may opt to neglect their own physical or mental health symptoms, causing a decline in their condition and potentially further complications.

The results suggest that Australia may be ill-prepared for a transition to digital and telehealth, meaning that further government interventions could be needed to support the transition. Such interventions could include educating people about the benefits of online consultations and reassuring them that risks are minimal.

The researchers also suggest that healthcare professionals have a role to play in aiding the transition. They will need to continue providing high-quality online services that rival the level of care they can provide in person; and also help shift people’s attitudes towards health tech.

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