Australia – a world leader in telehealth quality guidelines

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Dr Alan Taylor with colleagues outside a community health centre in Southern Brazil

Industry standards matter – just ask Dr Alan Taylor.

With more than 20 years of experience in telehealth, Adelaide-based Dr Taylor is the Project Lead and driving force behind an Australia-led initiative within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create the first, full international telehealth standard.

The new edition of ISO/IS 13131 Health Informatics – Telehealth Services – Quality Planning Guidelines will be published mid-2021 and according to Dr Taylor, it will add credibility, help standardise approaches, and decrease liabilities for operators across the telehealth sphere.
 

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The role of standards in telehealth

Rather than being a proscriptive standard “which tends to stifle development and innovation”, Dr Taylor says the new standard is both flexible and general enough to be applicable to all telehealth services, whether the operator is a large organisation, or a smaller, solo practitioner.

“The standard is really intended to guide people into considering what they need in a clinical and organisational situation,” explained Dr Taylor.

“It will ask clinicians to consider what processes and equipment they will need to achieve a particular outcome and then it will provide the procedures for them to write their own telehealth guidelines.”

The standard includes numerous use cases and examples, and covers all the requirements to operate a quality telehealth service, including:

  • Financial management – for sustainable telehealth delivery.
  • Service planning – for accessible, appropriate, and inclusive telehealth services.
  • Workforce planning – for a competent, qualified, and inclusive workforce that delivers safe and high-quality healthcare.
  • Healthcare planning – for creating your own telehealth plans, guidelines, and protocols to deliver efficient, effective, safe, and appropriate healthcare.
  • Healthcare responsibilities – for accountable, appropriate, and transparent healthcare.
  • Facilities management – to provide an appropriate environment in which to conduct telehealth services.
  • Technology management – to underpin dependent and efficient telehealth service delivery.
  • Information management – to safeguard information privacy, security, and health information.

 

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Australia at the forefront of telehealth

Photo of Doctor Alan TaylorDr Taylor is an Associate Lecturer at Flinders University in South Australia. He is also a member of Standards Australia’s Telehealth Committee, a member of the ISO TC/215 Health Informatics Committee, and a former Vice President of the Australian Telehealth Society.

Dr Taylor was the Project Manager for the Flinders Telehealth in the Home trial in 2013-2015. This Flinders University initiative evaluated models of palliative care, aged care, and rehabilitation services provided to the homes and primary residences of patients and carers in South Australia.

During his career, Dr Taylor has also led numerous health and telehealth initiatives throughout Queensland.

Dr Taylor says Australia’s emergence as a leader in telehealth is due in part to the country’s long relationship with telehealth, which started in 1928 with the founding of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).

“I would put Australia alongside countries like the USA and Brazil in the scale of telehealth services that we have rolled out and these countries all share a geographical vastness,” said Dr Taylor, who recently spent six months working in Brazil as part of his PhD on telehealth systems and guidelines.

“They are vast territories and that means there are populations that are isolated, which accentuates health inequality. So, the root of a lot of telehealth activities are designed to equal out the provision of healthcare.”

Once the standards are completed, Dr Taylor’s focus on telehealth guidelines will continue: He will be turning his attention to guidelines for apps and consumer devices for remote health monitoring. He is also about to publish a book based on his telehealth research.

 

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You can learn more about telehealth guidelines here and at the Australian Telehealth Society website and purchase the older Australian edition of the ISO/TS 13131 Health Informatics – Telehealth Services – Quality Planning Guidelines from Standards Australia.

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