October 26, 2021

Telehealth Awareness Month: How we care virtually

This month is Telehealth Awareness Month, aimed at promoting telehealth and virtual care for consumers and addressing digital inequity and digital literacy.

Anton Harms, Senior Clinician, Physiotherapy, is one of many Northern Health staff using telehealth. He said he was keen to explore the use of telephone and video appointment with clients, prior to its introduction across the health service.

“I had been considering using telehealth for the assessment and review for some patients prior to the COVID-19 related initiative, particularly videos as it was not available previously,” he said.

As part of our COVID-19 response, Northern Health introduced telehealth as a strategy to support patients attending our Specialists Clinics (Outpatients). Now, telehealth is used right across our health service.

For Anton, his telehealth experience has been positive, although he does admit to some limitations when it comes to physical examinations.

“A physical examination is necessary to make these decisions. But there is still a lot we can do for our patients via telehealth, especially when we have video to view the patients’ movement and body language.”

One of the many conveniences that telehealth offers, is that patients don’t need to travel into the hospital to attend appointments.

“For many people with severe hip osteoarthritis, their mobility is quite limited and a physical examination is not required in the initial assessment, so having them save a trip to the hospital is much more convenient, particularly if they are from Kilmore, Alexandra or Flowerdale,” Anton said.

“I have had several long conversations with people, who have been very appreciative of the phone call and the information provided.”

Anton is exploring ways he can provide readily accessible and understandable information to people regarding hip and knee osteoarthritis and the range of management and treatment options available using technology.

“The use of apps, SMS reminders and other notifications to assist people on the treatment and rehabilitation journey for hip and knee osteoarthritis is also being explored,” Anton said.

“We are exploring digital ways of providing easy access to a range of ‘patient reported outcome measures’ (PROMS) so we can more easily understand if we’ve made an improvement to their lives and their goals.”

Tracey Webster, Telehealth Coordinator, said the use of televideo has evolved since it’s launch in April 2020.

“We started the pilot in Specialist Clinics and now we use televideo across Northern Health. The wards use it for family meetings, virtual visiting, multidisciplinary meetings and accessing interpreters,” she said.

“Our community programs use it for our aged care, allied health and transition care, to support dialysis and oncology patients at home and so many more ways. We now have Virtual ED, a Telehealth Hub, group education and a COVID-19 Telephone Monitoring Program.”

Featured image: Anton Harms, Senior Clinician, Physiotherapy, conducting a telehealth appointment.