This week health services across the state have celebrated Queensland’s telehealth program – thought to be one of the world’s best – following huge surges in its use during the coronavirus pandemic.
CEQ’s Matt Page said Telehealth Week was a national initiative designed to highlight the benefits of telehealth and virtual care models, which have shown their worth throughout COVID-19.
“Before COVID we were already seeing year-on-year growth in the use of telehealth, reaching 100,000 consultations last year,” he said.
“But in the first three months of the pandemic, we saw a 160 per cent increase in telehealth consultations.”
Matt said Queensland Health was able to cater to so many consultations by flexing up the system’s capacity, increasing the number of simultaneous external video calls from 90 to 1,600, and fast-tracking the introduction of new virtual clinics.
The Telehealth Virtual Clinic sees patients attend consultations with their healthcare provider from the safety of their home via their phone, computer or tablet, preventing the need to travel anywhere at all.
Matt said the program was built to mimic that of a real, in-person clinic complete with a receptionist and a virtual waiting room where a patient waits until the specialist is ready to see them.
Data shows the new technology has been embraced by Queensland clinicians and patients alike, with a 300 per cent rise in the use of virtual clinic sessions across the state.
“Virtual care is another tool in the Queensland Health arsenal that is making life easier for patients living with chronic illness, particularly in rural and remote communities, but patients from all over the state have been using it during COVID.”
“Because there are so many benefits of this type of technology, we hope to see this kind of usage continue and patients have had plenty of positive things to say about it.”
Matt attributes Queensland’s agile technological response to the pandemic to a ‘thirst’ for continually evolving the telehealth program.
“We have always seen ourselves as innovators and always looking to the next thing.”
“Our ability to respond and adapt so quickly is really because we already had a vision for where the existing system was going and the collaborative working relationships within Queensland Health meant we could see that vision become a reality a lot sooner.
“Telehealth Week was a great opportunity to thank everyone involved for their hard work in getting this up and running so quickly and to thank people for embracing change.
“The use of telehealth has been critical to ensuring patients can receive the right care at the right time despite a global pandemic.”
For more information on telehealth visit: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/telehealth.