Understanding use and availability of telehealth in residential aged care facilities

The Final Report: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety identified several areas that affect aged care residents within the current health system including limited access to general practitioners (GPs) and allied health professionals within aged care facilities, difficulties accessing out of hours services and unnecessary hospital transfers.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has provided funding to Primary Health Networks (PHNs), as part of the PHN Aged Care Program, to increase availability and use of telehealth care for people living in residential aged care facilities (RACF).

The WA Primary Health Alliance RACF Telehealth Project team is working to understand current use and availability of telehealth resources in all RACFs within WA, through engagement with facility managers and GPs in RACFs. The initial consultation and assessment will inform the allocation of telehealth funding over the next two years and guide the equipment and software selection most appropriate to conducting efficient telehealth consults.

The initiative will support timely access to primary health care professionals for residents and better equip RACFs with telehealth equipment, training and ongoing education to support access to virtual consultations with health professionals.

“At WA Primary Health Alliance, we believe the expansion of telehealth enabled models of care will help to improve equity and access to primary health care for residents of WA residential aged care facilities”

–WA Primary Health Alliance General Manager, Primary Care Innovation and Development, Bernadette Kenny

The telehealth equipment and training will also support after-hours virtual health care consultations for people living in RACFs.  In addition, WAPHA will have a role in assisting facilities to proactively review and/or implement after-hours plans.

To learn more about WAPHA’s RACF telehealth activity, made possible through the Australia Government Aged Care Funding, contact Dr Caroline Vafeas, Senior Program Manager- Aged Care caroline.vafeas@wapha.org.au. A number of resources on telehealth are also available here.