Telehealth can be used as a platform to deliver a diverse range of healthcare services.
Whether people are living in isolated rural and regional locations, or if they have restricted access to local facilities due to their urban location – for example aged care residents, or people quarantining due to infection concerns – telehealth is an effective and flexible method for health professionals to deliver a wide range of services to their medically remote patients.
Under the Australian Government’s MBS telehealth rebate scheme, a range of health care providers can now offer telehealth services to patients including GPs, specialists, allied health providers, mental health professionals, and nurse practitioners.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that, where possible, telehealth services are provided and coordinated by a patient’s usual healthcare provider or or practice to ensure a quality service that also delivers continuity of care.
According to the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI), telehealth enables provision of a service with a high level of specialist expertise that is highly accessible, without the costs and challenges involved in a patient’s transport and accommodation for in-person healthcare. Telehealth keeps patients closer to home and removes the burden of travel for extended periods due to their level of injury.
Telehealth services can be delivered either synchronously – that is via face-to-face video conference; or asynchronously – for example, a nurse conducts patient medical rounds, and saves the reports to an electronic health record for later review by, and discussion with, a doctor or specialist.
The ACI says healthcare professionals can use telehealth for a broad range of targeted health services, including:
- Acute disease treatment and management
- Chronic disease treatment and management
- Preventive treatment and management
Telehealth services can also provide patients with:
- Specialist evidence-based pain management
- Appropriate pre-clinic/admission support and triage activity to primary care
- And appropriate follow-up client support and education, maximising learning
Other viable telehealth services include:
- Mental health assessment and treatment
- Writing repeat e-prescriptions for medicines used in long-term illnesses
- Discussing diet and physical activity
- Writing referral letters
Telehealth can also be used to improve communication between a client and providers of primary care and specialist services. While, for healthcare professionals who work in regional, rural, and remote areas, telehealth is a useful tool to provide peer support and training.
Conduct remote medical examinations
Some telehealth systems, such as the Visionflex telehealth system which supports a suite of approved medical devices and is embedded with store-and-forward capability, can be used by healthcare providers to perform clinical examinations of remote patients.
The Visionflex telehealth solution can be used to remotely assess patient:
- Heartbeat, lungs, and gut health (digital stethoscope)
- Heart health (ECG)
- Ear, nose, and throat (otoscope)
- Teeth (dental camera)
- Wounds and skin health (GEIS® General Examination Camera HD)
- Blood-oxygen levels (pulse oximeter)
- Blood-sugar levels (blood-glucose monitor)
- Nose and larynx (video rhino laryngoscope)
- Ultrasound (portable ultrasound)
- Weight and temperature (weighing scales and thermometer)
Visionflex telehealth technology can also be used to perform:
- Real-time examinations (video examination glasses)
- Internal examinations (colposcope)
- And endoscopy (endoscope video camera)
Telehealth services for aged care
Telehealth is particularly suited to providing healthcare services in aged care settings, where it can be used to connect patients 24/7 with remote health professionals.
Elderly people are more likely to have complex and chronic health conditions that may require regular visits with, for example, a GP, medical specialist, aged-care nurse, dentist, psychologist, or allied health professionals.
Due to its clinical functions, in aged care settings Visionflex telehealth technology can be used to:
- Conduct collaborative clinical medical examinations and discuss complex cases with multiple practitioners in real-time
- Perform general imaging examinations; wound management; ear, nose, and throat examinations; ophthalmology; dermatology; speech pathology, plus many other patient observations via Bluetooth and USB-connected devices
- Connect elderly patients 24/7 from the comfort of their residence with medical specialists and allied health professionals via high-definition video conferencing
- Remotely triage a patient and, if an in-person medical visit is required, an appointment can be made, and patient transport organised
- Conduct pre- and post-treatment patient medical assessments
Clinical telehealth services can also assist to:
- Perform regular wound assessments
- Perform medication management reviews
- Perform mental health assessments
- Perform oral and dental assessments
- Enhance rural health outreach services, so aged care recipients in country locations can access medical specialists anywhere, anytime
- Conduct remote patient monitoring using approved medical devices to track and share health information and identify risk factors and treatment options before a condition becomes serious