Telehealth is more than cameras and software. To reliably use telehealth, you need to design it into your model of care.

Before the days of WFH in your pajama pants, I spent a year with the Royal Children’s Hospital developing a method to integrate telehealth as a standard option for outpatient clinics. I found common blind spots that, unless addressed, make telehealth janky.

Your process should check these three things to get the right patient into the right type of appointment the first time.

The type of care you provide

Different investigations and treatments have differing suitability for telehealth. I know that sounds obvious, but there are a lot of shades of grey based on what you anticipate might happen at this point in their care.

Are there things that can be ordered, performed, or trialed by the referring practitioner before this appointment? Does the clinician need to be physically present with the patient to perform this investigation or treatment? Could a family member or caregiver be a proxy for the clinician under their direction?

External constraints

There are some external factors that may make telehealth unsuitable.

Is the patient part of a clinical trial that precludes treatment off-site? Does the patient meet the current requirements for MBS telehealth items?

Patient-specific considerations

Telehealth is not suitable for all patients at all times.

Is this patient and their family open to using telehealth? Does the patient require support services (e.g. an interpreter) to be present during the consult, and if so can that be arranged? Does the treating/triaging clinician feel confident that this point of care can be delivered via telehealth for this particular patient?

If telehealth is here to stay for your service, now’s the time to perform a more in-depth approach to embed telehealth and establish processes for success, deliver better patient care, and make things easier for your clinicians.

Good luck, and if you’d like to pick my brain just get in touch.