October 19, 2023

Unlocking Healthcare’s Digital Future: Telehealth Awareness Month

October is Telehealth Awareness Month, a time to celebrate and enthusiastically promote the numerous ground-breaking achievements and unparalleled opportunities offered by the transformative world of Telehealth, notably amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth involves delivering healthcare services remotely through the use of information and technology, with the added capability of supporting education. Telehealth is most commonly delivered through telephone and video calls.

At Northern Health, Telehealth and virtual care also encompass any projects where technology is used to assess or communicate with patients in a non-face-to-face setting, such as clinical apps or software.

This year’s theme for Telehealth Awareness month is “Telehealth: Enabling Sustainable Health Care” and it aims to highlight the role of Telehealth in:

  • Enabling equitable consumer access to high quality health services closer to home, meaning less time away from community work and school
  • Supporting clinicians to access peer support and upskilling in order to increase skill, reduce isolation and increase workforce retention
  • Enabling healthcare providers to collaborate to deliver high quality, integrated care, regardless of where the consumer is located
  • Reducing the environmental footprint of providing health care, via reduced clinician and consumer travel which will mean fuel savings and less carbon emissions

Sarah Davies, Telehealth and Virtual Care Manager, Northern Health, says, “My role of Telehealth and Virtual Care Manager comprises the whole Telehealth department! However, I sit within the Digital Division and work closely with the other departments. Recently, I have also been branching out of Telehealth to support the Antenatal Clinic team with EMR Go Live.”

Sarah assumed her role in February 2023 and, while she has already gained substantial knowledge, she acknowledges that there is a significant amount of learning yet to be undertaken.

“My background is a Neurological Physiotherapist, however I have also done various project roles and just prior to this role, I was working as Clinical Coordinator within the Community Therapy Services. In all the roles I have had, the thing I like most about my work is being able to help people – staff and patients. I consider both these groups to be my main consumers now.”

Despite the fact that Telehealth uptake has lessened dramatically since the pandemic, it still has the potential to provide amazing support and opportunity to staff and patients.

“At the moment, at Northern Health, telephone is used far more frequently than video call, but we know that video calls offer a far superior experience for both parties. My dream is to support patients to be able to avoid carparking challenges and crowded waiting areas, and support staff to overcome room booking challenges and cross site travel by utilizing video calls,” said Sarah.

“I appreciate that a blend of face-to-face and video call appointments is the way forward and I look forward to working with clinical teams in future to support staff to make this happen with hybrid models of care. I expect over time, as staff and patients get more practice and become proficient with using video calls, they will notice the benefits.”

As we continue to celebrate Telehealth month during the month of October, let’s remember that the importance of Telehealth extends far beyond a single month, as it stands as a vital cornerstone in shaping the future of healthcare.

Pictured in featured image: Sarah Davies, Telehealth and Virtual Care Manager.