How can we ensure that telehealth continues after COVID-19?

Posted by Keshia De Guzman

We have all felt the immense impact of COVID-19, and for the primary care sector, there has been a significant change in the way that care is delivered.

Telehealth delivery, through telephone or videoconference consults, can help prevent widespread COVID-19 transmission by reducing person-to-person contact. As a result, the Australian government introduced new telehealth funding for General practitioners (GP) and other clinicians. Since COVID-19, we have seen dramatic increases in telehealth delivery in Australia, particularly in primary care.1

The advantages of telehealth during COVID-19 are undisputable, but there are many other benefits that telehealth offers. Telehealth can increase access to care, reduce patient or clinician travel, and facilitate connectivity between care providers (e.g., between a GP and specialist). Yet, how can we ensure that telehealth services are routinely offered after COVID-19?

The implementation of telehealth funding by the Australian government has certainly had a positive effect on telehealth uptake. However, we need to understand that there are many other factors, asides from funding, that influence telehealth delivery in primary care.  

As patients, we have become more accustomed to accessing healthcare services from home,1,2 so it would be reasonable to expect increased consumer-demand for GP telehealth services in the future. For GPs, the ability to provide high quality care and to develop patient rapport are paramount for general practice services. These are just some of the factors that influence GP telehealth delivery.

In some ways, telehealth uptake during COVID-19 has been a ‘opportunity in crisis.’ COVID-19 created a natural experiment for telehealth use, so there is an opportunity to learn from new experiences. What are the unique challenges that our GPs face for delivering ongoing telehealth services? And how can improve the integration of telehealth into our existing healthcare systems? 

Our new research study,3 involving qualitative interviews with GPs, dives further into these questions by providing an in-depth understanding of the factors that drive telehealth use in primary care. These findings aim to help inform strategies to support telehealth supported models of care in the future.

Keshia De Guzman is a PhD candidate at the UQ Centre for Online Health.

  1. Snoswell C, Caffery LJ, Taylor ML, et al. Telehealth and coronavirus: Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) activity in Australia. Centre for Online Health, The University of Queensland, 2021. Available at
  2. Thomas EE, Haydon HM, Mehotra A, Caffery LJJ, Snoswell CL, Banbury A, and Smith AC. (2021). Building on the momentum: Sustaining telehealth beyond COVID-19. J Telemed Telecare. doi: 10.1177/1357633X20960638
  3. De Guzman KR, Snoswell CL, Giles CM, Smith AC, and Haydon HH. (2021). General practitioner perceptions of telehealth services in Australia: a qualitative study. BJGP Open. Doi: 10.3399/bjgpo.2021.0182


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