Digital health, disadvantage, COVID-19: the latest Australian research

Thursday, October 1, 2020

‘Telehealth hospital outpatient specialist appointments do not seem to have a reduced rate of non-attendance compared with face-to-face appointments’, says the Editor-in-Chief of Australian Health Review, Dr Sonĵ Hall.

Australian Health Review (AHR) is the peer-reviewed journal of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘Our October issue has a special focus on digital health, as well as a focus on healthcare for people experiencing disadvantage, and continuing coverage of COVID-19 related issues’, Dr Hall said.

A Queensland team led by Clinical Excellence Queensland looked at all specialist outpatient appointments in Queensland during the 2017–18 financial year.

They found that reducing the burden of travel through having telehealth appointments made little difference to rates of non-attendance.

Telehealth patients missed their appointments for the same reasons as in-person patients—usually forgetting or being confused about appointments.

Turning from hospital outpatients to emergency department patients, another Queensland-based team from Princess Alexandra Hospital and Metro North Hospital and Health Service examined the effect of introduction of electronic medical records and information systems covering the interface between emergency departments and emergency admission to the hospital.

Concern has been expressed that introducing new electronic systems such as these may initially result in a slowing of ED processes (digital deceleration), increased length of stay in the ED, and resulting worse patient outcomes for those who are admitted.

‘The team found that while processes in the ED slowed a little and length of stay increased slightly, outcomes for patients in terms of rates of mortality were unaffected’, Dr Hall said.

On the theme of healthcare and disadvantage, one of the October AHR research articles focuses on homeless men and their healthcare experiences.

‘It is a very sad story of dismissive care, care fragmentation, inconsistent, inadequate and/or unsafe prescribing for pain, and inconsistent and/or ineffective responses to psychological distress’, Dr Hall said.

‘The article clearly shows that changes are needed in health system responses to break cycles of trauma and exclusion, and should take into account the experiences and insights of marginalised people.

‘In this issue of AHR we have also published research on the hepatitis C treatment intentions of Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

‘The study found that there are substantial hurdles to achieving hepatitis C elimination in Aboriginal communities, including lack of knowledge and concerns about the stigma of seeking treatment.

‘Stable housing was also an important pre-requisite to seeking treatment because Aboriginal people who were homeless were much more focused on the day-to-day problems of living on the street, including lack of regular sleep, physical exhaustion and daily anxiety.’

‘Finally, on COVID-19, among our articles are perspective pieces on telehealth uptake in general practice as a result of COVID-19, and general practice’s early response to the pandemic, among several other COVID-related items.’

The October 2020 edition of Australian Health Review can be accessed here.

Covid-19 articles in the Australian Health Review are available open access at:

More information on AHHA is available at

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.


Media enquiries: Dr Sonĵ Hall, Editor in Chief, Australian Health Review, 0427 613 587