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Allied health clinical leadership vital to telehealth success

Sunday, 17 May 2020  
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Picture: Denise Douglas, Associate Director Allied Health, Scientific & Technical at CCDHB editor Rebecca McBeth


Clinical leadership and support for an Allied Health telehealth project at Capital and Coast DHB is key to its continuing success.


Allied Health at CCDHB started a formal telehealth pilot last November using Zoom and was trying to increase its use for clinical appointments.


“We could see real opportunities for efficiencies with patients using telehealth and virtual appointments, but we weren’t getting much traction,” says clinical informatician Denise Douglas, who is associate director allied health, scientific & technical at CCDHB.


“Then Covid-19 hit and we were really well placed to amplify our usage of telehealth.”


The dietitian and speech language therapy teams have gone almost entirely virtual for outpatients appointments during Covid-19 levels four and three and Douglas says staff are confident they will continue delivering virtual appointments in the future, after the current crisis has passed.

A gestational diabetes patient group that used to meet in person now meets online with a dietitian and so does a group of cystic fibrosis patients, who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.


“The legacy of Covid-19 is that so many more of our clinicians have seen that telehealth is absolutely the right thing to do and we’ve had really positive feedback from patients,” Douglas says.


Patient attendance in some services has also improved significantly since appointments were moved online.


Getting IT-savvy clinicians involved from the outset of the project has been key to its success and is important in order to sustain the change going forward.


“We’re not letting go of these gains, this is our new way of working,” she says.


The Allied Health project group developed a simple user guide for implementing telehealth within Older Adults, Rehabilitation & Allied Health services, which has since been shared nationwide as DHBs grapple with a rapid shift to virtual care during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Denise Douglas is a member of the Clinical Informatics Leadership Network, which has developed the Clinical Informatics Position Statement.


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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