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Telehealth helps save Wide Bay patients 1.5M kilometres of travel

The significant impact of telehealth bringing care closer to home has been revealed, with new data showing Wide Bay patients have saved at least 1.5 million kilometres of travel by using the service.

The release of the data coincides with Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service hosting a Telehealth Awareness Week to help encourage further growth in the use of telehealth by patients and staff.

Telehealth, which delivers health-related services via telecommunications technology such as videoconferencing, has enabled WBHHS to provide better access to metropolitan-based specialists, while also expanding access to its own services to its rural communities.

Accessing telehealth is saving Wide Bay patients extensive travel commitments with an average round trip to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital or Prince Charles Hospital from Bundaberg or Mundubbera being more than 700km.

“Telehealth is making a great difference to the lives of Wide Bay patients because it enables them to access care close to home, where they have their support networks such as family, friends and community connections,” Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board Chair Peta Jamieson said.

“That’s why the Board has made the expansion of Telehealth one of our key priorities, under our strategic plan, Care Comes First… Through Patients’ Eyes. It not only helps us to deliver services in a new way, but it also often saves patients a great deal of cost and inconvenience associated with travel and accommodation.

“Whether it’s a trip from the Fraser Coast to Brisbane or from Monto to Bundaberg, telehealth has helped patients and their families by reducing the need to travel significant distances for follow-up appointments with specialists.”

Currently there are regular WBHHS telehealth clinics for a variety of specialties including diabetes, endocrinology, gastroenterology, aged care assessment, rural pediatrics, cancer care and rural allied health. The WBHHS telehealth team also facilitates appointments for WBHHS patients with specialists from outside the Wide Bay area.

“Telehealth Awareness Week is being celebrated and promoted to encourage more take-up of the service by staff and patients,” WBHHS Acting Telehealth Coordinator Kathy Tobin said.

“Our aim for the week is to empower consumers to ask their medical provider: ‘Could my appointment be by telehealth?’ We also want to challenge our staff to consider if they could see their patients by telehealth next time.”

“As part of that effort, we’re promoting the service around our hospitals to patients and also running come-and-try sessions for our staff.”

The growth in telehealth appointments conducted by WBHHS has been impressive, growing from 1421 outpatient telehealth appointments in 2013/14 to 6619 outpatient telehealth appointments in 2018/19.

“Telehealth makes a real difference in reducing the burden of travel for our patients in terms of time, cost and hassles such as arranging parking near hospitals,” Ms Tobin said.

“It results in less time away from home and off work, less need to make alternative family or childcare arrangements and it keeps services at local hospitals.

“Overall, telehealth has enormous benefits and we hope to see more opportunities to grow the use of the service.”

If you wish to find out more about telehealth, contact 4303 8211.

Last updated: 29 October 2019