As we close out a year that has been dominated by healthcare-related news due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Telstra Health is sharing its final instalment for 2020 of leading digital health news stories. 

Throughout December, there have been numerous articles centred around longer-term accessibility to telehealth, health standards in Aboriginal communities, and the move towards a COVID-19 vaccination and its rollout. Here are the key stories across the digital health sector this month that we’ve been keeping across.

First-of-its-kind chatbot developed to support genetic counselling, Mirage News (December 1)

Scientists at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, in partnership with Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, have developed an Australian-first digital conversation agent (a ‘chatbot’) that could support patients in making informed decisions about genomic testing for future health risks.

Telehealth to reduce treatment barriers in mental health care, Health Industry Hub (December 1)

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has welcomed the announcement from Federal Health Minister, Hon Greg Hunt, that telehealth will become a permanent part of the Medicare system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the bushfire crisis of 2019-20.

Closing the Gap failing to keep Aboriginal people out of hospital, study finds, AusDoc. (December 2)

A new study based on NSW hospital data from 20,000 patients, suggests Aboriginal individuals with chronic conditions are almost twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to repeatedly end up in hospital for avoidable reasons.

Britain is rolling out the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week. What does that mean for Australia?, ABC (December 3)

In historic news for not just the year but the century, Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine which will be rolled out this month, with frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents the first to receive the vaccine.

Make Australia the place global winners pick to do business, Australian Financial Review (December 8)

The Australian Financial Review Innovation Summit took place this month and Telstra Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Vincent McCauley discussed with other leaders in healthcare and science the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitally-enabled transformations.

Here is the lowdown on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, AusDoc. (December 14)

The long-awaited publication of peer-reviewed trial results of Pfizer’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and reveals evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy in patients aged 55-75 and other groups at high risk of severe disease.