Enhancing remote physiotherapy services for consistent patient care

Ellen McMaster

1Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Hillston MPS, 48 Burns Street, Hillston, NSW, 2675 ellen.mcmaster@gsahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Background In response to significant gaps in Physiotherapy services in Hay in the 12 month period preceding project initiation, the project team analysed the factors contributing to the problem and developed an action plan to improve consistent access to physiotherapy services. The option of using telehealth for clinical care delivered using the internet and computers was explored. Barriers to implementation were identified and managed.  Method This process involved community consultation; development of Allied Health Assistant competency requirements to be able to facilitate a Physiotherapy consultation using telehealth; adopting a model of care in which the Physiotherapist was located at a base location and linked to the Remote “recipient” site where the Allied Health Assistant facilitated the consultation with the patient and carer. Two role plays using telehealth to deliver the service were used initially to test equipment, train staff, improve competency and confidence, and to test procedures. A pilot study was then done with two physiotherapy patients requiring high priority follow-up when there was a gap in service delivery.

Results Patient Feedback was positive and access to physiotherapy services improved from 40% to 81% of the time in a 12 month period.  Discussion The skill set developed is being used to embed the use of telehealth in clinical practice for consistent patient care in outreach to Hay. Information was shared with the district Physiotherapists and an Action Working Group formed to continue with implementation of Telehealth in Physiotherapy across the local health district and to ensure equitable, sustainable practice in rural areas.

Biography

Ellen grew up in a thriving rural community that has seen it’s share of adversity. Belonging to a small community has shaped Ellen’s passion for making a difference in rural health. Using technology is the way forward and even though Ellen’s IT skills are laughed at by her three sons, she can see the potential of it reforming the way we deliver care in rural areas where service access is an ongoing problem. Through the clincal leadership program involvement, Ellen has been inspired by the dedication of colleagues and the strength and courage of patients…our community.