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South Island sustaining shift to telehealth

Tuesday, 23 June 2020  
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Picture: Peter McIlroy, lead paediatrician at Nelson Hospital editor Rebecca McBeth


South Island DHBs are working to sustain the shift towards telehealth consults that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.


A strategy to improve and expand telehealth services was agreed upon by the five South Island DHBs in 2019 and recruitment is now underway for a telehealth regional programme facilitator.


The South Island Alliance Programme Office says the rapid growth of telehealth in response to Covid-19 has provided clinicians across the South Island with increased confidence to continue offering online care.


Nelson Marlborough DHB went from an average of 13 telehealth consultations per week, to 766 during the Covid crisis.


Peter McIlroy, lead paediatrician at Nelson Hospital, says a swift expansion of equipment enabled a range of clinical services to be carried out during lockdown via Zoom.


One of these was a virtual paediatric diabetes multi-disciplinary clinic.


“We linked with a dietician who was based at home, as well as a diabetes nurse educator and myself in separate rooms at the hospital, connecting with multiple families in their home environment,” he says.


“The ease of use and the experience of all being in a virtual room together…exceeded my expectations.”


However, McIlroy says more work needs to be done, especially around tackling the digital divide to ensure vulnerable families are not left behind.


“It has significantly increased the workload for clerical staff as the administration software is not currently designed to fully support virtual appointments – but that can change,” he adds.


Canterbury DHB clinical manager Bronwyn Suzana says Covid-19 prompted a huge upskilling in how to use telehealth and 100 per cent of stroke rehabilitation staff are now competent and confident to use it.


The Community Stroke Rehab Service moved to providing most of their assessment and intervention via telehealth during lockdown. The team also trialled new initiatives and developed several online stroke rehabilitation groups.


“We were pleasantly surprised at the number of people who were happy to use telehealth, across all ages and stages,” she says.


“As community teams, we are exploring the learning we’ve had during this time and what could work in the future.”


The newly released Health and Disability System Review says consumers should have the tools to manage their own health and navigate the system and virtual (telehealth) services should be established to provide consumers with greater access to services.


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


Read more news:

Momentum builds for data and digital investment

DHBs eye up ‘quick wins’ in digital maturity

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