Making telehealth a reality


By Dr Louise Schaper*
Tuesday, 20 March, 2018

Making telehealth a reality

There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, where our children will either marvel at our resilience or question our judgement at our stories of how health care “used to be delivered… back in my day”.

The young adults of today, raised in an internet-connected world, won’t recall how people communicated before social media and those following in their footsteps won’t recall a healthcare system that relied solely on in-person consultations to deliver and receive care.

Some of you will read this with a doubting mind, thinking, “I’ve heard this before” (and you are not wrong); however, there is renewed energy and momentum working to evolve healthcare service delivery through telehealth and virtual care.

Embedding telehealth into clinical consultations is a priority reform area of Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy. Tim Kelsey, CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency will address the plans of the Australian Government at the upcoming Australian Telehealth Conference in Sydney from 11–12 April.

He will be joined by eminent UK Professor of Primary Care Trisha Greenhalgh who, not shy of controversy, will answer the question “Why do so many telehealth programs fail?”. Hunter New England CEO Michael DiRienzo and telehealth advocate Chris Ryan will respond to Greenhalgh’s international take, with discussions on how Australia can design a health system where travel is optional.

The application of design thinking and co-design approaches to virtual care that work for the patient and the clinician will be featured heavily at the event. Health service designers, clinicians, clinical digital health leaders and digital disrupters from all fields are bringing creative thinking to the forefront of healthcare. ATC 2018 will feature creative, co-design approaches — especially co-design work implemented at scale.

How can we improve the telehealth experience through the patient’s eyes? At ATC 2018 we will illuminate the patient experience through four major pillars of design thinking: discovery, invention, prototype and delivery of scale. Design thinking is here and in telehealth it can build a bridge to take us from the current reality to a new future. Workshops and presentations across the two days will examine practical co-design approaches to creating the future of healthcare service delivery at scale.

Dr Christopher McGowan, CEO of Silver Chain Group, will be discussing his organisation’s reformed service delivery where they are leading aged and community care in the use of virtual care technologies to improve health outcomes.

The Townsville experience on building virtual care scalability into regional health services and conducting clinical trials will be overviewed by Professor Sabe Sabesan, director of Medical Oncology at Townsville Cancer Centre.

I encourage you to consider joining us at ATC 2018, where you will meet Australian telehealth leaders and be part of the community collaborating across borders for change. It’s an exciting time to be in health care and one day soon you will be able to tell your children stories of how you contributed to building the healthcare system which brings healthcare to them.

The Australian Telehealth Conference (ATC) 2018 will be taking place from 11–12 April 2018 at the Novotel Sydney Central. For further details, please visit

*Dr Louise Schaper is CEO of Australia’s peak professional organisation for digital health, HISA. Dr Schaper sits on the Advisory Board for the Stanford Medicine X conference and is a National E-Health Transition Authority Clinical Leader and graduate of Stanford University’s Executive Leadership Program.

Top image credit: ©

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