Telehealth for Rural and Regional Patients
Australia is a very large country and while the majority of its inhabitants live on the fringes in and around the capital cities, many people live and work in regional areas. Living in these areas can provide inhabitants with many rewards but there are some drawbacks. One important drawback is accessibility to medical advice, especially specialist medical advice. This has been an important issue for many people living in Australia’s rural areas, particularly those with young children who may be experiencing health issues.
In recent years, the development of technology has now made it possible for a patient and doctor to have a consultation from a distance with a video teleconference. Medicare now also supports medical appointments through video conference.
Of course there are some limitations to a video conference appointment. While it is possible for the doctor to take a detailed history, there are obvious limitations with regard to being able to carefully examine a patient and some tests require face to face contact. In the assessment of allergy, Skin Prick Tests are often done to determine exactly which allergens are causing the problems. Skin Prick Testing cannot be carried out on a video conference however RAST tests are performed by a blood sample and this can be organised by your GP or a pathology collection centre. RAST tests are a good alternative although the out of pocket expense can be higher. However taking a detailed history will minimise the number of tests required which will reduce the cost, and of course the need to travel large distances is removed.
We set aside a little more time for appointments by teleconference and this allows time for any technical issues that may need to be overcome for the teleconference. However, beyond this you will need access to a computer with a web cam, microphone and speaker and an internet connection that is fast enough to support a teleconference.
Working With Your GP
As a specialist medical service, Telehealth conferences are still services that require referral from your general practitioner. In fact, consulting with patients in this way requires a greater level of communication between your specialist and your GP. For this reason the ideal situation is for the Teleconference to occur within your GP’s offices which enables a more direction consultation process between the specialist and your GP and means that some of the subsequent tasks like taking blood for tests and writing scripts can then be carried out by your GP very soon after the appointment with your specialist.
However, this may not always be possible and in these cases, we would be able to organise pathology forms and prescriptions from a distance while maintaining communication with your GP.
How To Proceed
You should discuss the problem with your general practitioner and see if they recommend a referral. If your GP would like to discuss the situation with us, we are always happy to do so.
If it is agreed that a specialist referral would be helpful, then you can call to make an appointment or make an appointment online (but please make sure you select the Telehealth appointment).
In either case, and if the video conference is to occur on your computer, we will make a time a few days ahead of the appointment to contact you and briefly make sure you have everything you need for the video conference. This will include a test video link connection with your computer. If you are familiar with these processes it may only take a few moments of your time, if not, it may require some software be installed on your computer and it could take slightly longer to configure.