On May 4, the Digital Health CRC launched the Telehealth Hub, a website to help clinicians, health professionals and health consumers to access and deliver telehealth services in Australia more effectively during COVID-19 and beyond.

When her 83-year old father called to recount his own hasty and unsatisfactory introduction to telehealth in mid-March, Dr Sonia Reisenhofer had an epiphany.

“I realised that the whole of Australia is about to jump into telehealth, so we need to prepare clinicians to offer this in a in a way that meets the clinicians needs but also is an empowering and positive experience for the patients and the community that they’re going to be serving,” says Dr Reisenhofer.

As the Associate Provost (International) for La Trobe University’s College of Science, Health & Engineering, she was aware that La Trobe had just become a partner in Australia’s Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre and initial discussions of projects was underway.

Dr Reisenhofer phoned the University’s Chair of Digital Health, Professor James Boyd, and suggested that a rapid development of telehealth resources was needed, and could be an ideal first project.

“When Sonia reached out, I knew that the Digital Health CRC would be the place where we could immediately make contact across a whole range of areas to get something underway fast,” Professor Boyd says.

He collaborated with DHCRC Education Manager Dr Melanie Haines and Curtin University Professor of Health Systems and Health Economics at the School of Public Health, Suzanne Robinson, to tap into a network of telehealth experts across Australia and put on a series of free webinars.

“Thanks to the good will of a lot of people, many of them already incredibly busy through the pandemic, we were able to get it moving,” Professor Boyd says.

Professor Robinson engaged PhD student and researcher at the WA Centre for Rural Health, Christina Tsou, to help with the webinars and then to check, collate and index a range of crowd-sourced information from the sessions into a coherent and useful site.

“Christina is a very experienced public health operator who is also a PhD student working on a thesis on telehealth within industry, and she also works in rural and remote health, so she’s very familiar with the terminology, she’s in tune with both the clinical and the policy-level needs, she brings academic rigor and integrity to the work and she’s also very dynamic and responsive,” Professor Robinson says.

The CRC is an ideal location for these industry-wide projects, she adds.

“CRCs are an entity that brings academia, government, industry and community together for a common cause, and they are generally very agile, because they are designed to respond to real-world priorities on a short timeframe,” she says.

“It’s the ideal place to serve as a hub for fast-changing information and resources.”