Dr Rosie Geraghty from Roma GP.
Dr Rosie Geraghty from Roma GP.

Telehealth to save Roma patients time and money

DATA has revealed that 90 per cent of surveyed health providers are willing to embrace telehealth as ‘routine care’ post COVID-19.

Western Queensland is experiencing a boom in Telehealth-Care with soaring numbers of patients now accessing medical support via telephone and video.

Latest data from General Practices in the region show that in the past seven weeks, more than 9000 patients had have at least one Telehealth phone call with their GP.

Almost 500 have undertaken a video call with their doctor and almost 800 have consulted a Nurse Practitioner via telephone.

The Western Queensland Primary Health Network’s (WQPHN) Health Intelligence Unit compiled figures showing that more than 16 per cent of the region’s entire population (62,038) have accessed Telehealth since the start of April this year.

“Clearly we are observing a trend sparked by coronavirus, but we’ve also considered what the future looks like beyond COVID-19, and what we’re seeing is a widespread desire for Telehealth to become a bigger part of primary care in the bush,” WQPHN CEO Stuart Gordon said.

“The feedback we’re getting is that while issues like connectivity and technical capability need to be addressed, there is strong support across our region for better utilisation of Telehealth in the post-pandemic world.”

“It’s pleasing to see the Commonwealth now indicating rebates for rural and remote Telehealth services may continue beyond September in response to what we’re seeing in the West.”

Similarly, WQPHN survey of 59 commissioned health providers (non-GPs), 48 per cent stated they experienced a “satisfactory or advanced” uptake of Telehealth since the pandemic.

With 88 per cent “willing to change” by incorporating Telehealth as part of their routine service offering post-COVID-19.

Over half of the providers said telephone was the most popular Telehealth platform, with video at 36 per cent and email at 9 per cent.

“Telehealth-Care makes absolute sense for rural and remote Queenslanders in our patch because often a face-to-face consult with the nearest GP, specialist or allied health practitioner can require a full day or more of travel, which can impact a patient’s recovery,” WQPHN executive manager Sandy Gillies said.

“Face-to-face consults will always be the gold-standard when it comes to primary care, but we see Telehealth as a vital adjunct that can improve access to care for remote patients, or those with mobility issues, the elderly, or where cultural barriers exist.”

Roma GP, Dr Rosie Geraghty said “That follow-up appointment does not necessarily have to be a face-to-face, it can save patients a lot of time and money and stress if those follow-ups can happen via Telehealth. The tyranny of distance has to be accounted for; we have to implement something else in healthcare out here to help communities.”

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