Telehealth Service Expands in WA

By Petrina Smith
Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

[caption id="attachment_6047" align="alignleft" width="104"]Dr Kim Hames, Minister for Health WA Dr Kim Hames, Minister for Health WA[/caption]

An innovative telehealth service linking seriously ill and injured patients in the Western Australian wheatbelt to the State’s best emergency specialists has grown from eight to 28 sites, with further expansion under way.

 The Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) links emergency specialists in Perth to small hospital emergency departments via high-definition video conferencing equipment, enabling the early involvement of the specialists in the treatment of acutely unwell and critically injured patients.
Health Minister Kim Hames said more than 4,500 patients had been examined and treated via the ETS since it started in August 2012 as a pilot program in eight Wheatbelt hospitals.
“The success of the ETS has seen it extended from eight to 28 Wheatbelt sites in the past 16 months and plans are under way for most WA Country Health Service hospitals to have Emergency Telehealth capacity in 2015,” Dr Hames said. “The early involvement of emergency specialists in the care of very unwell patients has proven invaluable in terms of early treatment, better patient outcomes and critical support for front-line clinicians, such as nursing staff in remote hospitals.
“Of the 4,500 patients who have used the ETS since its inception, 71 per cent of patients have been successfully diagnosed and treated at the presenting hospital, reducing the need for them be transferred to another hospital.
“Earlier treatment and intervention means a quicker recovery and less time spent in hospitals for patients.”
The Minister said Telehealth was a key part of the State Government’s $565 million Southern Inland Health Initiative, funded through Royalties for Regions.
“In many cases, improved access to specialists within their own communities reduces the need for patients to travel to the metropolitan area or other major regions, which also lessens the burden placed on these patients when they are away from their home towns,” he said.
“The ETS is having a positive impact on front-line clinicians in remote locations, who are often working in isolation, managing complex emergency presentations. It enables the specialist and clinicians to work together on cases which provides support and also real-time training.”
The Goldfields region will be the next region to receive ETS, with staff orientation sessions currently under way.
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