Telehealth rolled out in Southland

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PATIENTS in Stewart Island and Te Anau will soon be able to access medical advice without the need to travel long distances.
The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) is rolling out a $495,000 investment in telehealth across the district to provide patients in remote rural communities with more accessible medical consultations.
Telehealth involves the use of IT and video technology to enable GPs and specialists to consult with people in rural areas via a confidential, secure video link, reducing the need for patients to travel long distances from their homes to medical appointments.
WellSouth Primary Health Network chief information officer Kyle Forde said the technology was being trialled in Gore at present, with plans to trial it in Te Anau and Stewart Island later this month.
The system has already been successfully trialled between Dunedin and the Lawrence Medical Centre.
Telehealth would be available for anyone requiring care in a remote location, he said. Depending on the medical issue, it could be used for some initial consultations, follow-up consultations, and education purposes.
Patients rang a medical centre or hospital linked to the telehealth service to make an appointment and then travelled to a central location within their area to access the ‘‘node’’ linking to the clinic or hospital, he said.
The telehealth service on Stewart Island would be linked from its medical centre to the Invercargill Medical Centre.
‘‘At present there is no GP on Stewart Island, so telehealth would make medical care more accessible to those living on the island.’’
The Te Anau location will be the Fiordland Medical Centre.
The telehealth platform, called Vidyo, was designed for low bandwidth areas where internet connectivity was low, Mr Forde said.
SDHB commissioner Kathy Grant said in a statement the investment was an important step towards a safer, more patient-centred health system.
Focusing on safety was key to a health system costing less in the long run, putting patients first, she said.
‘‘We heard very clearly from patients outside of the main centres about the burden of travelling for appointments which can be avoided.
‘‘We believe these investments have the ability to make a real difference, and we are pleased to support those working in a primary health setting to provide even greater patient care.’’

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