WA to extend virtual ED telehealth service

Western Australia is expanding its Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) to the state's Goldfields region as part of plans to have most WA Country Health Service hospitals using the system by 2015.

ETS began as a pilot program in eight Wheatbelt hospitals in 2012, and has since extended to 28 predominantly small hospital EDs in the Wheatbelt, Midwest and Kimberley.

WA Health Minister Kim Hames said the Goldfields region will be the next region to receive ETS, with staff orientation sessions currently under way.

Almost all of the consultations are with nurses staffing small rural hospitals without medical cover, and are conducted by about 20 emergency medicine specialists using high-definition video conferencing based at the WACHS in Perth or at home.

The service also plans to provide more timely mental health assessments to patients presenting in rural EDs in association with the RuralLink mental health service.

Dr Hames said that since the service began, more than 4500 patients had been seen, with 71 per cent diagnosed and treated at the presenting hospital, reducing the need for them be transferred.

"In many cases, improved access to specialists within their own communities reduces the need for patients to travel to the metropolitan area or other major regions, which also lessens the burden placed on these patients when they are away from their home towns," he said.

"The ETS is having a positive impact on front-line clinicians in remote locations, who are often working in isolation, managing complex emergency presentations. It enables the specialist and clinicians to work together on cases which provides support and also real-time training."

The expansion into new regions is being funded as part of the state's Royalties for Regions program, with $36.5 million allocated to telehealth technology for the Southern Inland area.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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