Telehealth is becoming an increasing popular tool in allied health service delivery in remote and rural settings. In short, Telehealth refers to the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies. Telehealth involves the transmission of images, voice and data between two or more sites using telecommunications to provide health services such as clinical advice, consultation, education and training services.
Telehealth can be delivered through a variety of mediums, including telephone, videoconferencing, fax, emails, and computers for data/imaging, virtual reality, and tele-robotics.
Types of Telehealth
There are three key types of Telehealth:
- Real-time Telehealth: In real-time Telehealth, a telecommunications link allows instantaneous interaction. Videoconferencing is the most utilised of this form of Telehealth.
- Store & Forward: In store-and-forward Telehealth digital images, video, audio and clinical data are captured and ‘stored’ on a computer; then securely transmitted (‘forwarded’) to a clinic at another location where they are studied by relevant specialists. The opinion of the specialist is then transmitted back.
- Remote monitoring: This involves the consistent, reliable and accurate remote monitoring of a patient's vital signs and predetermined health measures (e.g. blood pressure, heart rate, weight etc) . This is also called home Telehealth.
Benefits of Telehealth
The use of Telehealth has many benefits, particularly in a remote or rural setting. For the client, Telehealth improves access to clinical services closer to home.
For the clinician it increases access to: clients; professional development and education opportunities; specialist services. Telehealth increases the information exchange between inter-professional teams and enhances client care. It reduces the need for clinicians to travel, and provides savings in associated costs for travel and accommodation.
Allied Health Applications of Telehealth
The possible applications of Telehealth are broad. In remote and rural allied health, Telehealth is most often used as a service delivery tool, a professional development medium, and a supervision and support tool.
Examples of Telehealth applications in service provision include:
- Observing a remote Allied Health Assistant working with a client in order to provide feedback and modification of the program.
- Consulting with a specialist at another centre to seek a second opinion.
- Preparing a discharge plan for a patient on discharge from a large regional hospital to a small remote hospital.
- Providing clinical hand-over for management of a client on discharge from a metropolitan tertiary hospital to a rural/remote hospital.
- Accessing specialist support in the management of client with complex care needs.
- Reviewing a client’s progress between outreach visits.
- Conducting an assessment or carrying out intervention.
- Providing community education sessions to outreach sites.
- Linking clients and Allied Health Professionals to specialist clinics in bigger centres (e.g. burns, amputee, neurology)
- Supporting the assessment, prescription, fabrication, modification and review of specialised equipment for people with disabilities.
Continuing Professional Development
Videoconferencing (VC) is a great medium to access professional development, with many organisations now offering training via VC.
Supervision & Support
Telehealth can be fantastic way to build a relationship and communicate with supervisors, mentors or coaches. The article Telehealth: A Model for Clinical Supervision in Allied Health provides useful information when engaging in supervision and support relationships via Telehealth.
Telehealth & You
Think about Telehealth within your workplace:
- Does your organisation access/offer any Telehealth programs?
- Does your organisation have access to videoconferencing facilities?
- Can videoconferencing facilities be accessed from anywhere else in the community?
- Is training available to learn how to use the videoconferencing equipment?
- What education and training is accessible by videoconferencing?
- How is/can Telehealth be used as part of my job?
- How can Telehealth enhance my delivery of services?
- Telehealth Standards Directions Supporting Better Patient Care
- Miller TW, Miller JM, Burton D, Sprang R, Adams, J; Telehealth: A Model for Clinical Supervision in Allied Health. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. July 2003. Volume 1 Number 2
- ATHAC Telehealth Standards Framework
- SARRAH Position Paper - Allied health and telehealth