District explores further expanding telehealth care
Luciano Frenopoulo sings the praises of telehealth.
"I enjoy immensely using telehealth and all of the benefits. The fact that I'm able to have my care from home without having to travel and fight traffic every day is really good," he said.
Luciano has osteoarthritis and is receiving care from the team running Canterbury Hospital's Osteoarthritis Chronic Care Program (OACCP).
The team switched to telehealth appointments during COVID-19 - connecting to their patients through video or phone calls - to provide personalised one-on-one consultations to patients at home.
The program's coordinator, physiotherapist Andrew Wood, said staff and patients had embraced the technology.
"We've found that we've been able to continue the service even during COVID, when there's been a lot of restrictions in place. Without telehealth, we would've found it really hard to continue providing care for our patients," he said.
More than 683,000 telehealth consultations were conducted across Sydney Local Health District in the 12 months to 30 June this year - double the number carried out in the same timeframe the previous year.
It includes RPA Virtual Hospital - the first virtual hospital in NSW - which has provided clinical care to more than 12,000 COVID-19 positive patients isolating at home or in Special Health Accommodation since March 2020.
As the District's COVID-19 response evolves, Mr Wood said the OACCP team would likely offer a mix of face-to-face and telehealth appointments.
"As the general population increase their access to technology in their homes, as well as their skills and confidence in using them, I think we'll see more services using telehealth," he said.
It's a view shared by Sydney Local Health District's Health Informatics Unit Director and Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr Angus Ritchie.
"The pandemic has fundamentally shifted expectations of how we communicate and collaborate with our patients and colleagues to deliver care. Telehealth has challenged our assumptions about new models of care and fostered tremendous innovation.
"Our patients have learned to trust the technology and our staff have gained a more nuanced understanding of how to use the service.
"From these foundations, we'll look to accelerate our virtual care strategy, to ensure we continue delivering excellence in health and care for all, in the years post COVID," Dr Ritchie said.