Designing disability-inclusive virtual healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the opportunities to extend access to healthcare through the introduction of technology. The rapid expansion of telehealth protected patients and healthcare but often excluded the health and rehabilitation needs of people with disability. To ensure inequality is not perpetuated, virtual healthcare needs to actively design for disability-inclusion.

In India, telehealth has played a critical role in ensuring continuity of care for hundreds of thousands of patients. Telehealth is now the new norm and it has a lot of potential to reach and support people living with disabilities.

The VirtuCare project, with funding from the Australia-India Council, will look at the role played by telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The findings will be used to inform the co-design of inclusive virtual healthcare and rehabilitation services. In partnership with the technology industry and government agencies, Nossal researchers will work with The George Institute, Public Health Foundation of India and University of Adelaide to analyse effective models of disability-inclusive virtual rehabilitation. The project team will work with Industry partners including Infosys to optimise the technology.

Unless you actively think about and include people with disabilities and other people in the margins, telehealth might miss its tremendous potential to assist such groups. We don't want to squander this opportunity. Professor Nathan Grills, Nossal Institute researcher.

The Government of India and Government of Australia have Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in disability sector. The VirtuCare project will produce a model of care to address health and rehabilitation needs of people with disability in India.

The Virtucare Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-India Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is led by the University of Melbourne and has received in-kind support from partners including Public Health Foundation of India, The George Institute, University of Adelaide, Infosys, the Emmanuel Hospital Association, and E-Sanjeevani through the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (Mohali, India).

Read about the project

Professor Nathan Grills, a Public Health Physician and Australian Research Council fellow, works largely in India on disability, non communicable diseases and health curriculum development and training.

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Professor Nathan Grills