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Monash University project to enhance telehealth for mental health, palliative care services

Monash University project to enhance telehealth for mental health, palliative care services

A new project in the Australian state of Victoria aims to improve the telehealth capabilities of mental health and palliative care services. Researchers at Monash University have received A$2 million ($1.4 million) funding from the federal government-backed Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) for its Enhanced Telehealth Capabilities project.  The project will be led by…

Press Release A new project in the Australian state of Victoria aims to improve the telehealth capabilities of mental health and palliative care services. Researchers at Monash University have received A$2 million ($1.4 million) funding from the federal government-backed Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) for its Enhanced Telehealth Capabilities project.  The project will be led by the university’s Faculty of Information Technology and supported by affiliates, Monash Health, University of Melbourne, Healthdirect Australia and Victoria’s Department of Health. WHY IT MATTERS With over 16 million Australians remotely accessing health services since the start of the pandemic, it has become essential for telehealth to be robust, especially for those in areas unreachable by major hospitals, said Rahina Hoda, Monash University Faculty of IT associate professor and project lead. Working closely with patients, caregivers, and doctors, the researchers will be developing “user-centred and research-based” software solutions that will enhance telehealth capabilities, such as real-time transcription, integration of personal diagnostic data from medical devices, and accessibility for the elderly and Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The aim, according to Hoda, is to augment current web-based video telehealth services to create “more streamlined and reliable systems while maintaining the privacy of all the users involved”.  Peter Poon, project collaborator and director of Supportive and Palliative Care at Monash Health, also stressed that the project is beneficial for palliative care patients and their carers who have difficulty accessing in-person consultation.  The research team will be collaborating with national public telehealth provider Healthdirect Australia, who will later make the forthcoming telehealth solutions available to clinics across Victoria via the Healthdirect Australia Video Call.  THE LARGER CONTEXT The Australian government is investing A$106 million ($76 million) over the next four years to make telehealth “permanent” in the country to ensure flexibility in the delivery of healthcare and the continuous provision of health consultations over the phone or online. However, earlier this month, it enforced changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule for telehealth items, including the termination of 128 items, which some healthcare leaders warned would bring major consequences to patients. In other news, the DHCRC recently funded a project that will deliver real-time patient data through dashboards. The A$2.1 million ($1.5 million) project is also led by Monash University and is expected to deliver solutions by 2025. ON THE RECORD “Our investment will deliver real-world mental health services providing improved patient experiences and outcomes in Victoria while at the same time laying the foundation for the developed telehealth services to seamlessly scale and be adopted beyond Victoria and palliative care; nationally and globally,” Dr Stefan Harrer, chief innovation officer at DHCRC, stated.

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