Indexed on: 23 Mar '17Published on: 23 Mar '17Published in: Journal of Medical Systems
Providing equitable access to healthcare services in rural and remote communities is an ongoing challenge that faces most governments. By increasing access to specialty expertise, telemedicine may be a potential solution to this problem. Regardless of its potential, many telemedicine initiatives do not progress beyond the research phase, and are not implemented into mainstream practice. One reason may be that some telemedicine services are developed without the appropriate planning to ascertain community needs and clinical requirements. The aim of this paper is to report the development of a planning framework for telemedicine services based on needs assessment. The presented framework is based on the key processes in needs assessment, Penchansky and Thomas's dimensions of access, and Bradshaw's types of need. This proposed planning framework consists of two phases. Phase one comprises data collection and needs assessment, and includes assessment of availability and expressed needs; accessibility; perception and affordability. Phase two involves prioritising the demand for health services, balanced against the known limitations of supply, and the implementation of an appropriate telemedicine service that reflects and meets the needs of the community. Using a structured framework for the planning of telemedicine services, based on need assessment, may help with the identification and prioritisation of community health needs.