Integrating virtual healthcare for underprivileged communities

By Linh Vo, AusHSI PhD Scholar

Linh Vo PhD

To me, a ‘perfect society’ is one where everyone can live comfortably and healthily. Sadly, I grew up in a small city in Vietnam in which not everyone has equitable access to quality health services. I was always wondering whether their impoverished state had led to their poor health, or if poor health had contributed to the inability to make ends meet.  With my mother working as a paediatrician and my father a politician, I aspired to a career in upstream healthcare that addresses root causes rather than symptoms, to improve people’s long-term health outcomes and break the endless loop of health and wealth.

My adventure began nine years ago when I arrived in Australia to undertake a Bachelor of Public Health. I discovered the field of Health Economics and felt absolutely thrilled about the exposure it gave me to a big picture way of thinking, so I went on to study a Master of Health Economics.

During and after my Masters degree, I was offered several opportunities to conduct research. However, my interest in research truly matured when I started this PhD program with AusHSI. My doctoral research is in partnership with West Moreton Health, aiming to integrate more cost-effective and patient-centred models of virtual care beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. A legacy of the COVID-19 era is that health consumers can continue to access health services remotely. However, the approach taken to develop and manage virtual healthcare during the pandemic was executed quickly, making it unclear how to coordinate this service long-term.

My work focuses on investigating the implementation, preferences, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of virtual care services provided within West Moreton Health. The most exciting part is that I have the opportunity to design a discrete choice experiment to explore patient preferences for the design and delivery of virtual care services. I will conduct my discrete choice experiment with a large cohort of Queensland prisoners to better understand their preferences as recipients of virtual care. This research is closely aligned with my vision of addressing the health policy trilemma of health, wealth and equity, and amplifying the voice of underprivileged communities.

AusHSI has been the most fantastic team that I have ever joined. I am constantly learning new things from the incredible group of fellow students and researchers that I am surrounded by. I am immensely grateful for the unwavering support and encouragement that I receive from my remarkable supervisory team which comprises both research experts and on-site clinicians. One year into this PhD program, I have grown a lot as a more independent early career researcher with enhanced skills and experiences to equip me to make research impact. I am so excited to embark on the next chapter of my PhD and harness the combined power of health economics and implementation science to maximise equitable access to quality health services.