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Telehealth designed with the patient in mind

By Dr Mark Santamaria (part of the Clinical Informatics Community of Practice Steering Committee)

I just received the advance notification of the Australian Telehealth Conference 2018 in my email, and it reminded me of an experience that someone had recently related to me.

Their elderly relative, living in supported residential care, had an appointment to see a specialist at a major city hospital. The appointment was for 11am, but preparations started at 9am travelling to the care facility, picking up their relative, combatting traffic to get to the hospital, and then finding appropriate parking that was virtually non-existent.

They felt relieved, having successfully arrived at the reception desk 5 minutes before the scheduled appointment. Unfortunately, there was a half hour wait, as the consultant was running behind time.

When finally in the doctor’s room, the consultation took approximately 7 minutes, there was limited discussion with the elderly patient, and no examination was required. They left the office with verbal instructions, and a piece of paper to give the receptionist, indicating that no further appointments were required.

Having travelled back to the residential care facility, it took another half hour to ensure the nursing staff at the facility, and the GP were given the appropriate instructions. On returning home they realised that this one appointment that took up 7 minutes of the doctor’s time, had taken 5 and a half hours for them to execute.

If the consultant at the hospital had employed a telemedicine solution, then no-one would have been inconvenienced, and the staff could have attended the session to get all the information first hand. It would have been a rewarding experience for all.

On reflection, this story must be played out thousands of times a day across the country, and the cost to the economy must be incredible.

Telemedicine is therefore no longer a maybe, it is a must, and we all have to work towards developing and implementing these patient centred solutions.

Dr Mark Santamaria

Emergency Physician at Alfred Health

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