While the Government's latest intergenerational report has been much maligned for its dismissal of climate risks, its assessment of the ageing population - and the pressure it will place on the health system - broadly echoes the concerns of the health sector.

"Chronic disease is going to swamp the health services in this country," UnitingCare Health executive director Richard Royle said as part of a panel discussion at the Association and Communication Events' Connect 2015 conference.

Relieving pressure on hospitals and community carers to meet this demand for increased treatment is a fast-looming challenge.

The question is: can telehealth act as a valve to release that pressure?

Tunstall Healthcare managing director Lyn Davies believes telehealth could be a "second level-type service" - after a patient sees a general practitioner, but before they turn to hospital or community care.

"There will be a hotline that you can go to where there's a clinically qualified person that you can do a face-to-face with," Davies predicted.

"I also see private insurance companies getting behind it, allowing people to have access to devices that will help them but keep them out of hospital, and private insurance premiums will be coming down because to it."

Donna Markham, an advisor to the chief executive at Monash Health, said home-based care was needed to cope with the growing shortage of acute care beds in hospitals nationally.

"We need to look at alternative ways of keeping people at home, and I think technology is one of those, as are different models of care," she said.

The public perception of care needs to change

One potential inhibitor to the growth of a telehealth tier of care in Australia is people's attitudes towards treatment.

"I think what needs to change is how we define what needs to be treated in a hospital bed horizontally versus what can be treated in someone's home," Markham said.

"I think a big part of that is the public's perception of where they need to get their healthcare.

"There's still a very strong belief that the best place to be when you're sick is in hospital in a bed. We need to change the public's perception that you can actually get treated just as well with the right clinicians and services around you in a different environment to the four walls of a hospital."

Cost is also a potential inhibitor. Information Age has previously analysed the economics of telehealth for providers, but similar considerations need to be applied to patients and their ability to access technology-driven health services.

"Unfortunately [telehealth] will be for people on better incomes who can afford the technology," St. Vincent's Health group CEO Toby Hall said.

"For people on lower incomes - and that's about 10 percent of the population - I think they will still struggle and need to access standard health services unless there's a formal subsidy [for telehealth access] put in place."

Predictive care

One area of telehealth that excited health system participants was the potential to introduce more proactive monitoring - enabling problems to be identified and treated before they become serious enough to require hospitalisation.

"When you're thinking about delivering care in the home, the fundamental difference is that you're proactively managing someone before they deteriorate and turn up to the hospital," Markham said.

"At the moment people will come to the hospital mostly when things have hit the bottom and you're trying to then react to the situation rather than proactively manage it.

"I think technology can assist us looking for those early warning signs to prevent that deterioration and keep someone as well as possible in the home before they need the actual hospital care."

Davies agreed. "[Home-based telehealth care is] not necessarily replacing anything other than cutting down some costs, increasing patients awareness and coming in earlier before there's an exacerbation [of a condition]," she said.

Ry Crozier travelled to Connect 2015 as a guest of Nuage Networks.