Hype, evidence gaps and digital divides: Telehealth blind spots in rural Australia

Deborah Warr, Georgina Luscombe, Danielle Couch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Despite high unmet demand for health services across rural Australia, uptake of telehealth has been slow, piecemeal and ad hoc. We argue that widespread failure to understand telehealth as a socio-technical practice is key to understanding this slow progress. To develop this argument, we explore how technocentric approaches to telehealth have contributed to critical blind spots. First, the ‘hype’ associated with the technological possibilities of telehealth discourages thoughtful consideration of the unanticipated consequences when technologies are rolled out into complex social fields. Second, it contributes to critical gaps in the telehealth evidence base, and particularly a paucity of analyses focussing on the experiences of service users and patients. A third blind spot concerns the limited attention paid to the social determinants of health and digital divides in rural areas. The final blind spot we consider is an apparent reluctance to engage community stakeholders in co-designing and coproducing telehealth services. We used an iterative approach to identify studies and commentary from a range of academic fields to explain the significance of the telehealth blind spots and how they might be addressed. Insights suggest how expanding understanding of the social dimensions of telehealth could enhance its accessibility, effectiveness and responsiveness to community needs and contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-606
Number of pages19
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Issue number4
Early online date25 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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