NSW Health developing new virtual care strategy for post-COVID-19 healthcare

NSW Health has been developing a new virtual care strategy that will be released for consultation in the next few weeks that lays out the health service's plans for the next five years.

The strategy has been informed by the rapid expansion of telehealth and video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen upwards of 250,000 attendees in NSW Health meetings and peer-to-peer calls in some weeks.

NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation telehealth manager Donna Parkes told the recent Digital Healthcare in the Age of Coronavirus conference that the pandemic had opened the eyes of many clinicians to the potential of telehealth and its use in virtual care.

“They can certainly see that it provides good, safe, equitable care to many speciality areas where it basically hadn't been used before,” Ms Parkes said.”It has really opened the door for them around providing choice to patients as well.”

NSW Health already had a strong telehealth backbone before the pandemic, including its wireless core infrastructure and various video conferencing applications, from Cisco and Polycom equipment to Skype for Business and Pexip.

Pexip is used to connect between different applications and with patients at home. Ms Parkes said that before the pandemic, NSW Health had about 1500 Pexip accounts across the state, but now has over 10,000.

“Prior to COVID we will getting 50 or 60 requests per month to onboard new services for the use of a video conferencing platform,” she said. “We ended up with an enterprise licence which we haven't required before and we do spin out to the cloud when we get beyond that.

“There has been a dramatic increase and I think what the interesting component will be is where it stabilises at. Is telehealth going to be a longer term component or modality that is always available for our patients moving forward?”

Ms Parkes said in one survey, 90 per cent of patients said they would like to continue to receive their care virtually, with one patient saying they had been receiving care for five years but were not aware they could receive it in their lounge room.

“Not only has COVID given us this silver lining of opportunity but it has opened the door and the visibility for our patients across the state,” she said. “A communication strategy would have been enormous and in some ways COVID has provided that for us.”

She said the existing virtual care strategy is due to expire next year so a new one has been developed with a strong vision around virtual care that delivers a digitally enabled, patient-centered experience and better health and well-being for the people of NSW.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: NSW Health, Telehealth, Pexip

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