If there has been one unlikely hero to emerge from the disruptions caused by COVID-19, it’s telehealth.
Two years ago, Emma from Victoria made a telephone call that changed her life. The call was to a Jean Hailes endocrinologist (hormone specialist) and it marked Emma’s introduction to telehealth.
The service, which allows health professionals to consult with patients using video or phone, has revolutionised the delivery of health care to people like Emma who live outside urban areas. It has also been a life saver for people everywhere who need medical help during the lockdowns of COVID-19.
Since being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 12 years ago, Emma has been receiving medical treatment for a condition that affects up to 13 per cent of women of reproductive age.
The journey from her Lakes Entrance home to see her specialist in Melbourne took three and a half hours each way, often for an appointment lasting less than 15 minutes. As a mother of two young children, it was a time-consuming challenge.
‘The first telehealth appointment was in my GP’s clinic, so that he was aware of the specialist’s recommendations and could go through them with me later on, if necessary,’ recalls Emma.
Two years on, Emma now has telehealth appointments from the comfort of her own home. ‘Once or twice when I had concerns, I was able to have a [telehealth] appointment … and discuss the issues with the specialist,’ she says. ‘She has helped me in so many different ways.’
While medical appointments are a permitted reason for people to leave their homes during COVID-19 lockdowns, telehealth has proved especially helpful for the many Jean Hailes patients who live interstate or regionally when travel has been restricted or state borders have been closed.
‘Some of our regional patients have also been reluctant to travel into Melbourne,’ explains Ms Kay Perkins, Practice Manager at the Jean Hailes clinics, which are located in East Melbourne and Clayton, Victoria.
She estimates that at least 40 per cent of all consultations at the clinics are now done via telehealth.
‘[For telehealth appointments,] we always prefer a video rather than a phone consultation because it allows for a greater connection between the clinician and the patient,’ she explains.
To make the best of telehealth consultations, Ms Perkins has these three tips:
- Before your appointment, prepare a ‘shopping list’ of the issues you want to discuss, for example, review current medications, ask about bone health or get advice on breast cancer screening.
- Ensure you set aside time and (where possible) be in a private space at home for the appointment, for example a bedroom or study, away from possible interruptions and distractions.
- Check your internet/phone connection before the appointment and have a pen and paper handy to take notes and jot down any questions or information.
Telehealth appointments at Jean Hailes clinics are now available to women Australia-wide.
To read about Jean Hailes medical services, make an appointment or for more information, go to www.jh.today/clinics.