October 1, 2020

Australian-first virtual ED triage launches

Patients living in Northern Health’s catchment area, as well as local general practitioners (GPs), will be able to use our new ‘Virtual ED Triage’ service from today. This Australian-first service will be available every day, including weekends from 1 pm to 9.30 pm.

Dr Loren Sher, Emergency Physician, explained this service will enable patients to talk to our emergency department (ED) nurses and doctors from their home, work or even their car.

“If a patient has a non-life threatening emergency, they can connect virtually with our ED staff, who will be able to provide medical advice. Patients will need to have a valid Medicare card and be comfortable speaking in English, as interpreting isn’t currently available for this particular service,” she explained.

By clicking on the link or using the QR code, patients will be directed to the registration page. Once registered, the patient will be placed in a virtual waiting room and when it’s their turn, the nurse will have an online consultation with the patient and advise on the best course of action.

“As a public hospital, we are the first in Australia to offer the model for patients to self-present to ED virtually,” Dr Sher explained.

The new service will also benefit local GPs and acute care centres, helping general practitioners manage patients in the community, and keep people closer to home.

“The program works with GPs and community health care providers to identify patients that traditionally would have been referred to ED, but may be suitable for ongoing management in the community, with ED consultation. We are hoping to establish a mutual relationship where GPs can have consultations with us regarding complicated patients, and we are hoping also to refer virtual triage patients to their practices for follow-up,” Dr Sher said.

The idea for the virtual ED triage model came from Northern Health staff, at one of our innovation forums, to help address the issues of physical distancing in waiting rooms and provide an alternative for patients who do not need to present to the ED for non-life threatening emergencies. It took the team 12 weeks from the idea to full realisation, with help from various departments across the hospital.

Janice Fernandes, Emergency Department Nurse Unit Manager, said our triage nurses are postgraduate trained and have unique skills to make time-sensitive clinical decisions, think critically and identify patient problems, ensuring our patients get the right care, at the right time. Stella James, ED nurse, who has been first trained to use the virtual triage system, is looking forward to continuing the training across the ED staff.

“As front line health care workers, we were exploring and looking for innovative ways to deliver timely care to our patients within the community. Northern Hospital has the busiest emergency department in Victoria and the third busiest in the country. The hospital is in a growth corridor and is expected to see continuing increases in presentations over the coming years. A successful virtual triage and medical management will help our patients get the care they need, without coming to hospital,” Janice said.

Please click here for more information and the access link.