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Tele-urology consultation a first for Torres and Cape

8 February 2019

Urology patients in the Torres Strait, Cape York and Northern Peninsula Area may soon be able to have their routine consultations close to home thanks to telehealth.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Northern Director of Medical Services Dr Marlow Coates said a Thursday Island resident recently had become the health service’s first urology telehealth service recipient.

“The patient was able to come into Thursday Island Hospital, be checked over by staff here and then undertake a consultation by video-link with a urology specialist at Cairns Hospital,’’ he said.

“Previously, the patient would have had to travel to Cairns for a routine consultation.

“Having to travel to Cairns or other major centres for a health service can prove to be a significant practical, emotional and financial burden for anyone and even more so if you have a family, a job, or other such responsibilities.

“When the health service you require is routine and non-complex, it’s so much easier if you can do it closer to home.’’

Dr Coates said the tele-urology service would be suitable for patients requiring follow-up reviews with their specialist and even for some initial consultations on a case-by-case basis.

He said the patient would be attended by staff at their local health facility, including a resident or visiting doctor, depending on the facility.

“A physical examination could be undertaken by the local doctor, including any required blood or urine tests, as required by the specialist and the information provided to the specialist over the video-link for discussion with the patient,’’ he said.

“Given the success of this first tele-urology consultation I’d be expecting we would be able to deliver up to 50 similar consultations over the course of the year.

“Our primary health care centres all have telehealth facilities available and could accommodate a tele-urology service, so long as it is coordinated with a scheduled visit by a doctor.

“And, of course, our main health facilities at Weipa, Cooktown, Bamaga and Thursday Island all have resident doctors.

“A patient from a smaller health facility in the Torres Strait or Cape York may sometimes need to go to Weipa, Cooktown, Bamaga or Thursday Island for medical imaging prior to their

telehealth consultation, but that is still not as arduous as travelling all the way to Cairns.’’

Telehealth uses high definition cameras to link medical specialists and other clinicians with patients in real time appointments through video-conferencing.

“Through video-conferencing, telehealth allows you to receive the same quality of care closer to home, reduces time away from home and makes it easier for family or friends to attend appointments with you,’’ Dr Coates said.

All consultations are private and secure.

“And patients don’t have to worry about operating the telehealth equipment,’’ Dr Coates said.

“Health facility staff will do that for you and help you as you see and talk to your doctor or other clinician.’’

Dr Coates said the Torres and Cape HHS now could offer telehealth services in more than 45 different disciplines across the region and the number was growing.

“Telehealth is really opening up a whole new world for health care in regional and remote areas like Cape York, the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area by providing specialist care without the need for travel,’’ he said.

“The increase in the use of telehealth obviously reflects the greater availability of appropriate patient-dedicated video-conferencing equipment at all our health facilities.

“But it also reflects the greater awareness among patients and clients of the benefits and convenience of utilising teleheath for their routine consultations and reviews.’’

Telehealth outpatient consultations in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region have increased four-fold over the past five years.

The number of consultations in the health service increased from 407 in 2014 to 1623 in 2018.

Just since 1 July 2018 to the end of January this year, the total number of kilometres of patient travel saved using telehealth in the Torres and Cape HHS (745,673 km) is just short of a full trip to the moon and back.

Visit TCHHS Telehealth webpage for more information.

Last updated: 1 March 2019