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Rural health with a digital future

Thames Hospital clinical director Dr Ruth Large shows Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman telehealth services in the Emergency Department.

Telehealth is at the forefront of hospital services in Thames. All four types of the technology are being used throughout the hospital to link patients with specialists throughout the Waikato.

When Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Minister for Coromandel Scott Simpson visited the rural hospital last week Thames Hospital clinical director Dr Ruth Large explained how telehealth (or video conferencing) is being used to improve access and equity for patients living remotely.  “Tele-acute support, tele-ambulatory care, tele-ward support and tele-workplace support are being used to allow patients to receive services closer to their home and whanau,” she said.

Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman

Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman

Dr Large demonstrated how complex trauma cases are now beamed to specialists all over New Zealand when the Emergency Department in Thames needs a more specialist opinion.

“The tool also helps to improve professional collaboration by allowing us to video conference with other specialists in our field – where we used to have to take a day off clinical duties we can now just sit in on the conference for an hour and then get back to see patients,” said Dr Large.

In addition to some outpatient clinics being run via telehealth, Thames has trialled a mobile cart unit which it hopes will be used increasingly for virtual ward rounds and the development of a virtual stroke unit.

In the future, telehealth may be able to facilitate the management of acute patients and potentially be used to augment specialist services in the community both by tele-monitoring and increased primary care support.

There is also a videoconference set up for education days and general meetings.

After the demonstration Dr Coleman met with staff and toured other parts of the hospital.

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