Digital health services such as telehealth have grown in multiple industries and applications since the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to rethink face to face servicing.
For many organisations, it was the driving force to increase or even introduce telehealth services to continue operating or simply survive as a business.
Since then, the growing need for health services across all geographies, and the critical shortage of allied health professionals is a challenge that needs solving on all fronts.
In July 2022 a report from the CSIRO, Our Future World, identified seven global mega trends that help shape the challenges and opportunities health service providers such as APM face in the future.
Two of these mega trends highlight the need to rapidly increase the use of digital health platforms.
The escalating health imperative
The post-pandemic world has exacerbated existing health challenges posed by an ageing population and growing burden of chronic disease.
One in five Australians report high or very high levels of psychological distress and there is heightened risk of infectious diseases and pathogens resistant to modern antibiotics.
Recent ABS Census data also suggests one in 10 Australians report a long-term mental health condition, and many of the locations with the highest rates of mental health issues are regional or remote. There is a growing need to better respond to health risks and improve health outcomes, and an increase in wait times to treat health issues.
At the same time, we are seeing a shortage of health professionals to deliver these services. The National Disability Services workforce census report released in August this year shows participation rates for allied health professionals dropped from 83% to 78%.
The same report suggests wait times for therapists can vary from six months to two years - with regional and remote areas impacted the most.
This shortage of health professionals, particularly for vulnerable cohorts in remote and regional areas, continues to make face to face services challenging.
Diving into digital
The pandemic-fuelled a boom in digitisation, with teleworking, telehealth, online shopping and digital currencies becoming mainstream.
40% of Australians now work remotely on a regular basis and the future demand for digital workers is expected to increase by 79% from to 2025.
Both these trends will influence how government, business and communities respond to and solve challenges we face.
Priorities for health providers
Health providers must respond to change and develop adaptive workforces that understand digital delivery.
With health challenges on the rise and the availability of some service providers decreasing, future proofing the workforce is vital.
Digital health services such as telehealth provide flexibility in delivery methods and a well-skilled workforce can fill gaps in service availability.
The delivery of digital health services is also a new skill for most health practitioners.
What APM is doing
APM’s health business- which includes APM WorkCare, Assure Programs, Biosymm, Communicorp, Early Start Australia, Lifecare, FBG and MCI - is investing in preparing our people to deliver high quality and accessible services, no matter where the patient and practitioner are located.
This initiative is both future proofing our workforce and meeting the needs of health professionals across our business. Telehealth allows us to offer hybrid work arrangements and flexible working hours for our allied health team members.
This capability is something we have identified that is important to our people, we are focusing on how we can meet this need.
Telehealth is also a key enabler for our teams to provide services for remote communities. Removing friction points by enabling telehealth capability is giving allied health professionals the ability to do what they do best – help people.
An industry perspective
APM recently took part in the Digital Health Summit in Sydney. Mallory Allsopp, General Manager, Product for APM Health, spoke on an expert panel looking at how we can develop and prepare our health teams to deliver services in a digital world.
The panel discussed how businesses, health and technology providers, and government can effectively partner in an age where many patients have higher levels of digital literacy than we’ve ever known, and post COVID-19 how we must shift from a reactive to a strategic mode, putting the consumer at the centre of any solution.
As part of the discussion, Mallory spoke about APM’s team of allied health professionals being motivated by a deep desire to help their patients and the need for technology to enable both their learning and their service delivery, and make it a delightful and seamless experience.
Digital Health CRC Project
APM is proud to have partnered with La Trobe and Curtin universities in the development of an innovative micro credential for telehealth delivery.
The Digital Health CRC telehealth project is a first of its kind learning experience designed to address the needs of health care employees in allied health, disability services, aged care and home care.
A microlearning experience, it’s designed to offer convenient and engaging learning to team members through small bites.
As the leading industry partner, APM is participating in the pilot project and many allied health team members will be testing the learning experience.