$2.5M grant a shot in the arm for telehealth and UQ student research

20 Feb 2014

Thanks to a recent $2.5M grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council, UQ’s Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Telehealth will lead a project to increase the take-up of telehealth in Australia.

Telehealth is a growing area of healthcare involving the use of telecommunication tools ranging from telephones and e-mail to videoconferencing and even remote robotic surgery.

The initial enthusiasm for telehealth services has slowed in recent times and health researchers are keen to know why. There’s a push to meet the challenges of this innovative model and increase the uptake of telehealth for the benefit of all Australians, especially those in remote communities and elderly Australians living in aged care facilities.

The grant is a real coup not only for the CRE but also for UQ’s Business School which was instrumental in the successful bid.

The telehealth research project brings together the seemingly disparate fields of business management and health care.

Dr Nicole Gillespie is a Senior Lecturer in Management at UQ Business School and an organizational psychologist. As one of the chief investigators on the CRE, Dr Gillespie is excited about this research.

“Telehealth holds immense promise for providing greater and more equitable access to quality health care. What’s really fantastic is that this CRE is truly interdisciplinary. It’s the first time there’s been this type of collaboration – medical practitioners, the Centre for Online Health (COH) at the PA Hospital, UQ’s Business School, health economists at Griffith University and others, are all coming together on this.”

The role of UQ Business School student researchers is an exciting feature of this project, with most of the grant money going to support PhD and post doctoral scholarships.

Teegan Green and Joanna Kho are two post-graduate students working towards their PhDs with UQ Business School. Their research contribution to the Telehealth project is a significant boost to the project and to their own careers.

While Teegan Green’s research focuses on trust and its role in successful transactions within the virtual context of telemedicine, her research has a much broader application.

“What we call ‘disruptive technologies’ – such as those used in Telemedicine –are increasingly being integrated into education, business and commerce, where virtual interactions and virtual organisations are becoming the norm.”

Joanna Kho works at the Centre for Online Health and the Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine (CRGM) and is completing an MBA as well as her PhD through UQ Business School.

Joanna will focus her PhD on telehealth and the management issues in dealing with integrating a new technology within an organisation. This research dovetails nicely with Joanna’s work within COH as Telehealth Practice Manager, where she manages all aspects of the RES-e-CARE telehealth program, which provides telehealth services for registered aged care facilities.

While her research focuses on residential aged care facilities, like Teegan, Joanna sees the wider benefits of the project.

“This research project provides business students like Teegan and me access to diverse settings – like hospitals and residential aged care facilities – to study business and management processes.”

Both Teegan and Joanna are emphatic about the key role of research and the importance of funding when it comes to business innovation.

Teegan explains, “Australia is a pioneer in implementing health technologies in telemedicine delivery– we have world-leading experts in management and telemedicine right here at UQ Business School and the Centre for Online Health.

“To be able to pick the brains of the best medical and management practitioners in my PhD research and learn from their expertise gives me an unrivalled competitive advantage. I’m confident findings from my research will better inform the way large-scale telemedicine health care is delivered.”

Joanna agrees.

“Sponsors, grants and donors play a key part in successful research by providing the financial resources to support these projects. Their contributions can provide scholarships to students, enabling them to continue to learn from research.” “As well, successful research programs attract recognition and prestige, which in turn is shared with the donors or sponsors. I guess you can say sponsors get great publicity when they contribute to improving our society or communities.”