Technology increasing equality in health

The success of telehealth is growing in leaps and bounds across Australia as it bridges the gap between diverse communities and specialist healthcare in the treatment of melanoma.

Many Australians have embraced the transformative service, experiencing first-hand how technology can improve their quality of life.

“A lot of my work has focused on Indigenous Australian communities and rural healthcare delivery,” explains Dr Liam Caffery from the Centre for Online Health, part of the Centre for Health Services Research.

“We work closely with community health providers to create healthcare models that work in practice, not just on paper. So, the ‘cookie-cutter’ approach isn’t always the most effective way to deliver telehealth services,” he says.

“The key is understanding why telehealth works in some scenarios and not others so we can tailor services to individual communities.

“The benefits of telehealth aren’t just isolated to outback communities. Telehealth also plays an important role in providing services to metropolitan patients.

“Telehealth helps improve equality in health for all patients.”

Most recently, Dr Caffrey and his team have ramped up the number of specialist services in outback Indigenous communities like Charleville and Cunnamulla. This builds on the regular telehealth endocrinology clinic, which has already been running in the Charleville community with great success.

For the past two years, Dr Caffery has also been using teledermatology and 3D total body photography in his efforts to detect melanoma earlier. That service is about to be rolled out to 15 rural communities across Australia.

“High-risk patients with a previous or family history of melanoma will soon be able to go to an imaging centre and be scanned,” says Dr Caffery.

“Their photographs will be sent to dermatologists who will review them and provide a report and recommendations.

“The idea is to pick up any signs of melanoma as early as possible so intervention strategies can be put in place.”

Dr Caffery is involved with the Princess Alexandra Hospital Telehealth Centre, Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis, Child and Youth Forensic Outreach Services, eGROW, Health-e-Regions, DREAMT and the Diamond Jubilee Fund’s Telehealth network.

This story is featured in the Summer 2019 edition of UQMedicine Magazine. View the latest edition here. Or to listen, watch, or read more stories from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine, visit our blog, MayneStream.