ACRRM and HISA join forces to promote telehealth

The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) have agreed to jointly produce webinars promoting the use of telehealth as a tool to overcome the fragmentation of care.

The overall aim is to increase the availability of quality telehealth services to people living in rural and remote Australia.

The series will focus on topics such as the management of chronic and complex conditions, developing care pathways that include telehealth, federal and state government policy initiatives such as NSW's integrated care policy and the Queensland rural telehealth plan, and potentially bring your own devices, in which consumers are providing their own hardware and monitoring peripherals.

Three webinars have been planned so far, to take place before the Rural Medicine Australia conference in Sydney in October and one before HISA's Australian Telehealth Conference (ATC) next year.

ACRRM has agreed to provide the webinar platform and host the presentation on its eHealth website and YouTube channel, while HISA will be in charge of recruiting and supporting presenters.

ACRRM hosted a webinar in June featuring GP and telehealth advocate Ewen McPhee, of the Emerald Medical Group in central Queensland.

That webinar, which explained how to set up and successfully run a sustainable telehealth service in rural general practice, is available on ACRRM's YouTube channel, as is a video subsequently filmed in the practice.

In the video, Dr McPhee says there are obvious benefits in a practical sense of delivering care locally and receiving specialist advice in the patient's own environment. He describes how telehealth can provide experiences that face to face consultations can't, including the case of a rural family who were all able to attend a consultation in Dr McPhee's surgery and were able to ask the remote specialist questions.

“You would never see that in a specialist consultation, that the whole family would travel to come and see the specialist,” he says. “That is one of the key things with telehealth: it is able to turn things on its head as far as a specialist consultation – the travel, the time away from home and also involving the extended family.”

Practice nurse Carmel Johnson explains the practical elements of setting up a consultation, while practice manager Wendy McPhee describes the growth in the service, with the practice now running two ADSL2+ connections and 4G back-up to handle demand.

Two of the practice's rural generalist registrars, Mitch Christensen and Rebecca Jorgensen, also discuss their experiences, as does a paediatrician in Rockhampton who often takes part.

The importance of getting more specialists involved is highlighted, with Dr McPhee saying many specialists are interested, “although there is still a misunderstanding of the appropriateness of telehealth or its ability to provide the fidelity of face-to-face consultations”.

An ACRRM spokesperson said the college is working with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) to encourage specialists visiting rural and remote areas to incorporate telehealth services as an adjunct to face-to-face services.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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