TELEHEALTH services are proving increasingly popular in the North West Hospital and Health Service.
A total of 1132 telehealth occasions of service were delivered in the North West in the first 11 months of 2013-14 from July to May.
North West HHS Board Chair Paul Woodhouse said this was already an eight per cent increase on the 1032 telehealth occasions of service delivered for the whole 12 months of 2012-13.
“When the June 2014 numbers are available and are added in, that percentage increase in telehealth services across the region will be even larger,’’ he said.
Mr Woodhouse said the North West HHS had a full-time telehealth coordinator helping build the service on a region-wide basis.
In addition, the North West HHS had received a total of $151,360 during 2013-14 to help establish a second telehealth coordinator position at Normanton Hospital specifically to help build the service there, he said.
Normanton Hospital was named last year as one of seven evaluation sites around Queensland that formed part of the State Government’s $30.9 million Rural Telehealth Service program announced in the 2013-14 State Budget.
The other six sites are Alpha, Eidsvold, Moura, Kowanyama, Roma and Bedourie.
The Rural Telehealth Service is designed to allow remote locations like Normanton to access 21st Century health services.
“The use of telehealth services at Normanton has been proving to be a huge success,’’ Mr Woodhouse said.
“In the first 11 months of 2013-14, Normanton Hospital already has delivered 78 telehealth occasions of service compared to just 11 for the whole of 2012-13.
“Telehealth more than proved its worth in February this year when floods isolated Normanton, Karumba and the south-eastern lower Gulf area.
“People couldn’t get to Normanton Hospital from Karumba or elsewhere to attend consultation clinics, so services were delivered from Normanton by telehealth.
“As a result, just in February alone, Normanton Hospital delivered 52 telehealth occasions of service so people living outside Normanton did not have to miss their clinic appointments.’’
At Normanton, telehealth initially is being used to deliver renal, oncology, pre-operative and paediatric consultations, with further services planned in the future.
“Utilising and expanding the telehealth network in the North West will transform the way some services are delivered in these communities and will create a new generation of care,’’ Mr Woodhouse said.
“Telehealth provides better access to health care and reduces the burden associated with travelling and waiting for a specialist.’’
Queensland currently has the largest managed telehealth network in Australia with more than 2000 systems deployed in more than 200 hospitals and community facilities.
These are utilised to deliver more than 40 clinical specialities and sub-specialties across the State and enable access to clinical services and advice previously not readily available in rural and remote communities.
Specialist services most frequently delivered using telehealth are Diabetes, Oncology, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Paediatrics, General Medicine, Orthopaedics, Pre-admission Clinics, Cardiology, Midwifery and Obstetrics.