Coronavirus and Telehealth – from a careworker’s perspective
Telehealth is the remote delivery of healthcare using information and communication technologies. Telehealth services may include virtual consultations, remote patient monitoring, and maintenance of electronic patient health records (Mayo Clinic 2017).
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As the Health Care sector continues to cope with the uncertainty of Covid-19, GP’s and other health care providers are modifying the way their services are delivered to ensure the safety of themself, health care teams and patients.
The introduction of Telehealth has enabled the continued medical assistance and support for the wider community, both regionally and rurally. A way for medical practitioners to conduct ongoing consultation and monitoring while still adhering to the rules of self-isolation and self-quarantine to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
The Australian Government has taken the appropriate actions to support Health care. Making it possible for GP’s, Specialists, and Allied Health to safely conduct appointments via telephone and video.
Whilst initially this service was only available to those at “high risk” of contracting the virus, The Minister for Health stated that as of the 29th March 2020 this service would now be accessible to all Australians who hold a current Medicare card.
Although the concept of Telehealth has been around for the last 30+ years, now more than ever technology plays a massive role in the medical field. The Health Care sector is constantly changing and evolving, with medical professionals constantly looking for ways to better treat their patients. The advances of Telehealth and technology are making it possible to gain quick and convenient access to information and health services that may ordinarily be inaccessible.
From a Care Workers perspective….
Would I use telehealth and why? Telehealth is a great concept and a wonderful tool to stay connected to your health care professional. If I was in a position of isolation or time poor, I would feel confident enough to use the telehealth services available.
I personally had a Covid-19 test a few weeks back. I was showing symptoms and my workplace required me to get a test as my job is working on the front line with vulnerable people in the community. I was able to contact my Doctor via a telephone call and have a pathology slip remotely collected. When my test results came back, my Doctor was very efficient in contacting me via the telephone to notify of my test results, without my having to go to the clinic. I received test results in less than 48 hours, test results were negative which was a great outcome.
Do I think Telehealth is for everyone? In the right situation such as a pandemic which we are currently faced with; I think everyone can benefit from Telehealth, especially during isolation and self-quarantine periods.
Obviously, as a long-term solution, I believe it is important for people to still have face to face contact with their health care provider if they are able. It’s my opinion that Telehealth may not be suitable when it comes to long term management of more serious health concerns.
It’s important for continuity of care during this current climate, so utilising Telehealth for the short term and then ideally having continued visits in the clinic would be ideal. For Rural communities, Telehealth may be a more ideal scenario, when face to face visits are not as accessible or manageable. It is my opinion that long term medical care and management be done in person with your practitioner wherever possible.
How can aged care facilities take advantage of telehealth/telemedicine? I believe that aged care facilities can take full advantage of Telehealth.
There is increasing evidence to support the success of telehealth in aged care facilities. Telehealth enables residents to have online video appointments with their practitioner, which minimises the need for additional staff, travel time, travel cost, and associated stressors involved in attending appointments in the community.
Telehealth can be particularly beneficial for aged care facilities in rural areas where travel time to and from appointments can be in excess of 100km. Another advantage; Telehealth can also play a strong role in reducing isolation and loneliness amongst people living in aged care. Residents can feel a social connection and experience community inclusion by taking part in regular and ongoing Telehealth appointments.
Telehealth improves access to a number of health care sectors; it allows the resident to build a relationship with multiple practitioners and improves continuity of care for the resident.