The impact of extensive loss of telecommunications on general practice: a case study in rural Victoria

Tran, Nancy H and Pedler, Daryl 2017, The impact of extensive loss of telecommunications on general practice: a case study in rural Victoria, Australian journal of rural health, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 77-84, doi: 10.1111/ajr.12300.

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Title The impact of extensive loss of telecommunications on general practice: a case study in rural Victoria
Author(s) Tran, Nancy H
Pedler, Daryl
Journal name Australian journal of rural health
Volume number 25
Issue number 2
Start page 77
End page 84
Total pages 8
Publisher Wiley
Place of publication Richmond, Vic.
Publication date 2017-04
ISSN 1440-1584
Keyword(s) business resilience
disaster planning
emergency management
rural health
Summary OBJECTIVE: To describe the impact of major loss of telecommunications on general practice in a rural region of Australia. DESIGN: A multi-stage qualitative study. Purposively selected participants were invited to contribute to initial data collection using an online survey, followed by interviews with selected participants. Thematic analysis of the data was performed by both research team members. SETTING: South-western Victoria, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals from organisations involved in Telstra recovery efforts, disaster management, health care and general practice staff. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The survey collected freeform responses from participants. Semi-structured interviews further explored a variety of experiences from purposively selected participants. RESULTS: Organisations and practices in the region were prepared for major disasters, but not for the unusual and 'limited' disaster of losing telecommunications, including lack of Internet access and loss of telephone services. Although alternative measures were found for telecommunications, there was still a significant impact on many health-care-related activities and general practice functionality during the outage period. In particular, there was an increase in duties for administrative staff to compensate for loss of telecommunications. Patient traffic for many services decreased due to uncertainty about availability and continuation of business. CONCLUSIONS: The Warrnambool outage could be used as a case study illustrating the dramatic impact of communication loss. Major impacts include changes in patient traffic, increased administrative duties and slowing of patient care. When developing or assessing disaster management plans, general practices should consider the impact of telecommunication loss on functionality and prepare appropriate alternative, accessible and reliable measures.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/ajr.12300
Field of Research 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, National Rural Health Alliance
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