Queensland sees big increase in outpatient services through telehealth

Queensland has seen a 42 per cent increase in outpatient services provided by telehealth in the 2015 financial year, with inpatient services also increasing across the state's 3000-odd systems.

Oncology medical consultations led the pack in outpatient services provided, while geriatric and general medical/surgical consultations saw the most growth for inpatient telehealth services. Inpatient consultations saw a doubling in growth over the period off a low base, Queensland Health figures show.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick last week confirmed his government's commitment to telehealth, shared by his predecessor, during a speech to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Brisbane.

Mr Dick said telehealth was able to reduce “the tyranny of distance which has undermined regional service delivery in Queensland for 200 years”.

“Telehealth is generally associated with taking services into remote and isolated communities, which is especially relevant in a state such as Queensland,” he said.

“Queensland currently has one of the largest managed telehealth networks in Australia. Over 3000 systems are deployed in over 200 hospitals and community facilities, supporting more than 70 clinical specialities and sub-specialties in providing telehealth services across the state.”

He said telehealth had real potential in making the delivery of health services more efficient in large regional areas as well as remote.

“In the past, a specialist or more often, the patient, had to hop on a plane and fly to Bundaberg, Mackay or Charleville for specialist appointments.

“But increasingly, that specialist will be able to stay at their home base, the patient stay in their own home and use telehealth facilities to treat patients.

“Whilst we continue to have a strong focus on ensuring we provide the best possible services to our more remote communities, there is much to be gained from a renewed focus on meeting the high volume demand in regional centres.”

The Queensland Health figures show that Metro North Hospital and Health Service (HHS) had overtaken Darling Downs HHS in the number of outpatient occasions of service for the year, closely followed by Mackay, Central Queensland, Townsville, and Cairns and Hinterland. All but one HHS exceeded their targets for the year.

Mr Dick said Townsville Hospital was providing oncology, renal, diabetes and rehabilitation services to regional centres in the Townsville HHS and Mackay, while Cairns services its regional centres on the Tablelands with geriatric, oncology and diabetes services, to name a few.

The top 10 outpatients clinics provided by telehealth throughout the state were: oncology medical consultation, orthopaedic surgery, diabetes, general medicine, paediatric medicine, gastroenterology, haematology, cardiology, primary care and nephrology.

For inpatient separations, West Moreton HHS led from the front, followed by Sunshine Coast, Metro South, Metro North and Darling Downs.

The main inpatient services provided were geriatric, general medical/surgical, palliative care, intensive care, rehabilitation, orthopaedic and medical oncology.

Mr Dick said he was very enthusiastic about future uses of telehealth. “As our population gets older and needs more services, I believe that it is possible that people may be able to be treated in their own home, under the guidance of a clinician.

”This is way into the future, and will be guided by the technological availability of such services. It’s not going to happen overnight. But imagine the efficiencies that can be gained here for both the health system and the health consumer.

“[Telehealth] maximises the precious time of treating clinicians, it delivers services as close to the consumers home as possible and reduces the tyranny of distance which has undermined regional service delivery in Queensland for 200 years.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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