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Telehealth a band-aid fix for health care accessibility

Telehealth has changed the way Australia’s health care system operates. The system rolled out by the Federal Government last month protects vulnerable health professionals and vulnerable patients alike.

Telehealth provided an immediate solution to current conditions. This allows for healthcare around the country to be more accessible, responsive and flexible in order to meet patient needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemics and beyond.

Whilst the Telehealth system is brilliants in terms of access to a certain form of immediate care, patients requiring a form of health care which falls under ‘non-urgent elective surgery’ have been left at a disadvantage. This disadvantage has been recognised, with the Government’s announcement that elective surgeries will resume beginning next week.

This move suggests restrictions placed on chronic medical treatment will begin to laxed soon, also. For those seeking skin health treatment, accounting for every one in four presentations to the GP, this is great news.

Canberra-based Dermatologist,Dr Andrew Miller said "Given these statistics, we know there is a strong need for accessing health care for skin related concerns and should be a high priority moving forward. This gives us a chance to overhaul a medical system that is, at present, currently failing regional and rural Australians.

Over the past 25 years Dr Andrew Miller, has seen a rapid increase in patients in Canberra, Young and the Bateman’s Bay area needing skin health check-ups. Accordingly, GPs report referring every 1 in 4 patients to see skin specialists due to skin health concerns.

Canberra’s sprinting population growth of 1.52% per year has made accessibility to adequate skin health care even more of an issue.

Dr Miller said "Considering this, one could argue that Australia’s skin health care system is profoundly failing its regional and rural citizens, who make up approximately one third (31.5%) of the Australian population."

"While the Government’s Telehealth system has been paramount in improving accessibility to health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care system requires significant attention in order to create a more robust and equal healthcare system for all Australians.  

"In addition to this, the Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) and Federal Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, have aligned on ACD’s new Strategic Plan to improve community access to skin health and dermatology care long-term. The ACD Strategic Plan 2020-23 focuses on enabling greater access, and advocacy for sustainable funding, for specialist dermatology services throughout Australia. 

ACD President, Associate Professor David Francis, says, “ACD is dedicated to managing and supporting Australians’ skin health through education, accessibility, advocacy and innovation. A primary focus for the College is to drive significant growth in the number of specialist dermatologists available to Australians. The College is building the specialist pipeline by exploring innovative methods for delivering training including in regional areas, strengthening the College’s professional and community networks and reinforcing our commitment to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors.” 

With the College’s commitment to increasing accessibility to skin health care in regional and rural areas, local Dermatologists, including Dr Miller, have pledged their support for the Strategic Plan which will greatly improve Australia’s inclusive healthcare system. 

While the Federal Government’s introduction of telehealth services is an important step in the right direction, there’s a long way to go before all Australians are offered equal access to healthcare, and this is a mission ACD is determined to fulfil.


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