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Waitematā delivers 10,000 telehealth appointments in a week

Tuesday, 8 September 2020  
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Picture: Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Christiansen in the new telehealth pod editor Rebecca McBeth


Clinicians at Waitematā DHB conducted 10,000 telehealth appointments in one week in August.

Every clinic room is equipped with video conferencing technology and a new telehealth pod is also being trialed at North Shore Hospital.

The soundproof pod includes a computer, phone and online toolkit so doctors can video call or phone patients at their home or workplace, freeing up a clinical room for essential face-to-face appointments. 

In April, during the national lockdown due to Covid-19, the DHB quickly ramped up its delivery of telehealth with around 7,800 appointments conducted by phone or video per week. This compares with 1,200 for the whole of 2018. 

One week in August, during the Auckland level 3 lockdown, 10,000 telehealth consultations were delivered.
Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Christiansen says building a sustainable telehealth service is not just about having the option of a phone or video interaction with a patient.

Digital tools such as ePrescribing and eOrders, so a clinician can easily order tests or send a prescription electronically, are also key.

The DHB also recently introduced a new tool to allow clinicians to email patients relevant information about their condition, something which used to be given as a paper booklet during consultations.

“We have been able to build a complete toolkit for our clinicians, which makes them very much more comfortable with the whole telehealth experience,” says Christiansen.

Having everything in place allowed the DHB to quickly revert back to telehealth during the level 3 lockdown in Auckland in August, allowing clinicians to continue to provide care that might otherwise have been delayed.

“Telehealth has a big impact on our ability to avoid excessive delays for patient care,” he says.
“Face-to-face consultations are still required for many patients for clinical reasons but if high- quality care can be provided via telehealth, we offer patients that option.”

While clinicians across the board are picking it up, mental health and allied health professionals in particular have enthusiastically adopted telehealth, with 1000 mental health video consults conducted in August alone.

Christiansen says patient feedback has been positive, particularly from people who were able to have a family member or support person join a telehealth consultation, who would not have been able to attend with them in-person.

Patients also reported feeling comfortable in their own homes and appreciated not having to take a lot of time out of their day to attend a short hospital appointment.

The DHB’s Institute for Innovation and Improvement (i3) is now planning to set up a second telehealth pod in the community for patient use.


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


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