Health care just a phone call away


By Emilie Mortensen*
Monday, 29 April, 2019



Health care just a phone call away

The evolution of telehealth services has seen rapid growth in recent years. A combination of the technology uptake from consumers alongside the advances in digital health have been the major drivers. Plus, the massive shift in consumer preferences in accessing health care and health information. Together this outlines the significance in the role that Australian health contact centres play.

First contact made

In 2017/18, an average of about 22,000 patients a day visited an Australian public hospital emergency department.1 This has had a steady incline of daily patients with the 2013/14 Australian hospital statistics stating a daily visitation of 19,700 patients.2

With the quantity of patients inundating the public hospital system, strides have been taken by health contact centres to provide additional means for Australians to access quality health care and health information through the numerous telehealth services available.

AS 5205:2019, Australian Health Contact Centres has been developed to guide the care consumers can expect to receive from health contact centres and to assist in providing a consistent approach to healthcare delivery across Australia.

“Health contact centres provide advice to the Australian public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The assistance provided ranges from information, advice, triage, treatment and many other health services. We are very proud to play a role supporting the Australian public health system,” said Standards Australia Acting CEO Adrian O’Connell.

Caring for the Australian community

The urge to develop AS 5205:2019 originated from potential safety risks that could arise in relation to assessment and providing health-related information to unseen and often unknown consumers.

This standard aims to guide consistency in the application of best practice principles in safety and quality across the contact centre field.

“This new standard will positively impact the Australian healthcare landscape. It is now possible for consumers and service providers to have more confidence in health contact centres — to ensure they are providing and receiving telehealth that is of the highest quality and is clinically sound,” said Healthdirect Australia spokesperson Maureen Robinson.

AS 5205:2019 compliant contact centres may observe a boost in the quality of consumer care provided via contact centres, and can contribute heavily to a reduction in the demand for emergency department visits.

“Health contact centres could improve the way our health system operates by providing access to quality health information and advice effectively, efficiently and equitably,” said the Committee Chair and Policy Director from Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, Kylie Woolcock.

Uniform needed

Before the publishing of AS 5205:2019, there were no uniform standards for Australian health contact centres unless it was specified contractually with providers and operators.

“To achieve their full potential, these centres must be properly integrated with national and state-based healthcare systems. The information and advice offered must meet the diverse needs of local populations within local healthcare contexts,” Woolcock continued.

This new standard has seen strong support and collaboration from the Commonwealth and each state’s Health Department as well as other key industry experts.

Sector-wide benefit

Telehealth services originated as a method to reach patients in remote locations; however, over the years it has evolved into many other types of healthcare offerings.

Health contact centres have developed as an effective and efficient tool to provide Australians with a range of health-related support, not only in rural and regional areas but also in metropolitan hubs and capital cities.

“Like other health services, health contact centres will need to meet rigorous quality standards. The new AS 5205:2019, Australian Health Contact Centres standard will support this,” Woolcock continued.

The publication of this standard is continued proof of the work of Standards Australia in bringing industry and community together for a benefit even broader than originally intended.

References

1. Emergency department care 2017–18 – Australian Hospital Statistics

2. Emergency department care 2013-14 – Australian Hospital Statistics

*Emilie Mortensen is the Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Standards Australia in the health sector. Emilie works with stakeholders to develop standards that drive innovation, achieve efficiencies and improve safety across the Australian health sector in each state and territory.

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/stockyimages

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