Vision 2020 Australia supports the proposal to extend and enhance telehealth and virtual health care to provide accessible and equitable health care for all.
During the COVID-19 pandemic research and innovation in telehealth solutions for eye care have been piloted with some success, providing communities with the opportunity to access time-critical and urgent eye care and improving patient outcomes.
In rural and remote areas, access to regular eye health and vision care can be limited, leading to higher rates of eye disease, much of which is avoidable. Making eye care more convenient and accessible for patients through telehealth, means earlier diagnosis of some eye diseases and a higher chance of preventing vision loss, which can affect a person’s mobility, overall health and quality of life.
Asynchronous telehealth should be supported as a key component in models of care which integrate community and tertiary eye care and involve task shifting. MBS telehealth item numbers are required to support these models.
Vision 2020 Australia supports the recommendation to test and evaluate patient-end supports for people using telehealth in rural and remote communities through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and in aged care and disability settings and making any necessary adjustments to ensure equity in access to telehealth services.
It is recommended that the next digital health strategy (2022) be fully integrated into Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan and used to measure progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 2020 World Health Assembly resolution to end avoidable blindness and the WHO global eye care targets.