Health industry calls on government to adopt 'tele-health'

THE health industry has called on the Abbott Government to adopt a national "tele-health" program to help give regional Australians easier access to healthcare.

A new group, called the One in Four Lives group, funded by health insurance and product firms including BT and Philips, released a white paper on telehealth on Wednesday.

The paper called on the government to adopt a national telehealth strategy, to help save on healthcare costs and prevent people needing to attend hospitals.

It said as many as 62% of rural Australians were experiencing shortages of health professionals, and more than half of all medical specialists were in metropolitan areas.

To address the inequity, the group said evidence from a United Kingdom trial of telehealth showed a 15% fall in emergency department visits and 20% reduction in ED admissions.

Group chair, BT's health director Lisa Altman said they aimed to encourage industry to get more involved in telehealth.

But she said a national effort could help Australians in remote areas access healthcare without leaving home, and help reduce the budget burden on the government.