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October is Telehealth Awareness Month and never before has telehealth been such an important part of the care provided to patients at Austin Health.
Kerri Strong from The Telehealth Team at Austin Health said COVID-19 has forced us to change the way we interact with patients and increased our reliance on telehealth.
“Consultations via phone and video have grown enormously and by necessity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kerri said.
“One of the important developments in the way we provide care through telehealth has been an increase in the use of video technology which lets practitioners see non-verbal cues and to develop a rapport with their patients.”
“Restrictions on visitors and specialist clinics being run remotely has meant a massive increase in the number of telehealth consultations being done across Austin Health with more than 7000 video calls a month now being made via Healthdirect – up from just 37 in January this year.
"This could not have happened without the support of the Austin Health Volunteer Team who have been instrumental in providing help to patients who have requested assistance to get ready for their telehealth appointments.”
“Technology like Video on Wheels has not only helped to support patients during times when there are limits on visitors but also allows family members to assist staff when patients are confused or distressed, as well as helping to facilitate interpreter sessions safely.”
“On top of this, patients have been able to connect with family who are interstate or overseas and would not otherwise be able to interact with them while they’re in hospital,” she said.
Physiotherapy patient, Catherine Ringwood, found telehealth sessions made appointments more accessible and saved her time.
“I had weekly consultations with a physio for a couple of months using telehealth and I was able to receive the same level of care without needing to attend,” Catherine said.
“Being seen from the comfort of my own home saved me time and expense - although I did wonder what people thought when the physio was down on the floor with their legs in the air showing me how to do the different exercises!”
Telehealth Awareness Month 2020 is celebrating the achievements and opportunities provided by telehealth. This week is also Get Online Week which encourages people to find the support they need improve their digital skills.
“It was very easy once everything was set up and I would definitely encourage older people to give it a try even if they don’t think of themselves as computer literate,” Catherine said.