How tapping into telehealth has extended our reach of services
COVID-19 has forced most industries to adapt and change, but the healthcare sector is one that will likely never return to a pre-COVID normal. Digital transformations that were pegged to take decades happened almost overnight due to the pandemic. Transformations such as advances in telehealth, particularly in video, changed the way healthcare providers, such as Remedy Healthcare, delivered and continue to deliver services.
Prior to COVID-19, Remedy Healthcare Allied Health Services operated exclusively in-person but the announcement of lockdown restrictions in March 2020 forced us to make a critical decision — find a way to consult with patients remotely or risk losing the ability to consult with and treat our patients altogether. With 350 healthcare professionals across nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry and exercise physiology, this was no easy task.
The solution to our dilemma — a situation I can imagine many other healthcare services across the country faced — was to shift to entirely remote consultations. This choice was vital for protecting the health of our clients and employees. Leading Australian video telehealth platform Coviu was integral in enabling us to continue servicing patients throughout lockdowns and beyond.
Golden moments: video telehealth helping patients thrive
The majority of my clients have taken to telehealth with ease. There have been very few patients who face internet connection challenges, and once connection is established, it is just like being in the same room. Even older Australians, many of whom have surprised us with their tech skills, are embracing video telehealth. Without the need to download any apps and with a virtual waiting room, it can feel just like an ordinary in-person appointment but without the inconvenience of travel.
Whilst I have many telehealth golden moments under my belt, conducting a successful physiotherapy telehealth session with a client, Kerry, during the Melbourne lockdown has to top the list.
Kerry has chronic pain and joint issues as a result of a traffic accident, which made moving and improving her strength essential for optimal physical independence. However, Kerry feared moving around in the community during the pandemic due to her susceptibility should she contract COVID-19. Therefore, it was essential we found a solution that enabled me to keep treating Kerry while minimising her potential exposure to the virus. This is where video telehealth came in. Kerry connected with Remedy Healthcare via Coviu twice weekly during the pandemic, enabling her to maintain and even improve her physical condition.
Kerry is now one of our longest-standing telehealth clients, even with the end of lockdown and the reopening of the clinic, the ease, effectiveness and convenience of telehealth appointments has led Kerry to abandon in-person sessions in favour of online video telehealth services.
Enhancing accessibility: telehealth reaches near and far
Not only has telehealth enabled us to treat patients during lockdown but it has actually extended the reach of our services. My clients now hail from regional Victoria to the outer reaches of Western Australia and Queensland where the nearest healthcare services can be hours away. Most recently, I took a client through a hip replacement program via video telehealth when the only other option would have been a three-hour round-trip to Dubbo. Not the best thing for a new hip!
The flexibility to deliver sessions whenever and wherever a client might be is one of the unsung benefits of telehealth. One of my recent telehealth sessions took place in a grade five classroom during the client’s breaktime.
At the height of the pandemic, our telehealth services were fully funded and it is our hope that this continues into the future. The expansion of telehealth services, particularly video, under the government’s COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services has helped patients across the country prioritise their health and wellbeing and receive care in an efficient and timely way.
Transforming health care: video consultations replacing in-person visits
Who would have thought that a global pandemic would be the leverage we needed to sprint years into the future and implement a fully functioning and effective video telehealth service. While the reason for the acceleration of digital transformations in the healthcare sector may have been unexpected, my experience with video telehealth during COVID-19 taught me that telehealth outcomes can be just as good as, if not better than, face-to-face sessions.
Replicating the in-person experience may seem improbable, yet, this is not the case. Clinical tools built into telehealth services, such as Coviu’s PhysioROM, mimic the in-person experience, which enables the service to provide comparable consultation and clinical outcomes.
Our General Manager, Amy Bach, effectively summed up the benefits: “Telehealth has enabled us to help more Australians to access convenient, safe and effective health care than ever before, particularly for the prevention and management of chronic diseases.”
Video telehealth is a transformative step in health care that has likely changed the Australian healthcare system forever. A world in which physiotherapy sessions could take place via video telehealth may have seemed impossible pre-COVID-19, but now I can’t imagine a world without it.
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