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See your specialist online


LRH Telehealth Project Worker and Facilitator, Barb Radley says patients are already benefiting from the new service.

For many people in Gippsland, visiting a specialist at Latrobe Regional Hospital is a round trip of 300 kilometres or more.

However, a new telehealth service has reduced the need for long distance travel by enabling patients to connect with their specialist through an online video consultation either from their local GP clinic or home.

Since the service began in March, patients have been spared more than 2400 kilometres in travel to and from LRH.

“You realise you’re starting to save people not only kilometres, but time,” LRH Telehealth Project Worker and Facilitator, Barb Radley said.

“It might have been a five hour round trip, then there’s the cost of petrol and loss of productivity, particularly if you’re a farmer and have to be away for a whole day.”

Funded by Better Care Victoria, the telehealth service is currently available to people attending endocrinology and chronic heart failure outpatient clinics that live more than 15 kilometres from LRH. Patients of Aboriginal medical services are eligible regardless of their distance from the hospital.

“Quite often, appointments involve a physical examination so telehealth is not always suitable for every appointment. However it is useful for follow-up consultations,” Barb said.

“It’s a matter of it being clinically appropriate. Even though a patient wants to have a consultation in this way, we still need to seek the specialist’s approval.”

The next step is connecting to the specialist using a computer or tablet device. People using the service so far have opted to do so from their GP clinic or their home.

“If you don’t have a device or computer, you will usually have the support of your GP clinic. Sometimes the GP is involved if a physical examination is required. Knowledge about the patient’s condition may be shared between the GP and specialist. This is very much a shared care model,” Barb said.

Feedback has been positive and consideration is being given to bringing more outpatient clinics on board.

The telehealth program follows a pilot project for paediatric patients in 2015 where parents were able to bring their child to LRH for a video consultation with Melbourne-based specialists.

Last year, parents began video consultations from home with paediatricians at LRH.

“The paediatric clinic was the trailblazer and our focus now is to expand the program by encouraging more adult patients to have their consultation from home,” Barb said.

There is more information about the telehealth program for patients and GPs on the LRH website or by contacting Barb Radley on 5173 8022.