Supporting expansion of telehealth-delivered allied health services

Ilsa Nielsen1, Jayne Kirkpatrick2, Melody Shepherd2, Peter Fuelling2

1Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Level 6, William McCormack Place (Stage 2), 5B Sheridan Street, Cairns QLD 4870, ilsa.nielsen@health.qld.gov.au
2Cunningham Centre, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, PO Box 405, Toowoomba, QLD AHET@health.qld.gov.au

Background

Telehealth is proposed as a key strategy to enhance consumers’ access to care particularly in rural and remote areas, and improve service efficiency. Queensland Health has identified key barriers to allied health service delivery via telehealth, including limited practical information on successful models and methods to redesign allied health clinical services for telehealth delivery.

Methods

Strategies commencing in 2015 to address the resource and training needs of allied health professionals and facilitate expansion of telehealth use in Queensland health services have included:

  • development of training programs/products related to service and clinical redesign for telehealth,
  • initiation of an allied health telehealth collaborative network to support dissemination of information on successful service models, and
  • collation and distribution of resources that assist teams to evaluate telehealth services.

Results

Training products supporting clinical practice redesign for telehealth delivery have required a specific focus on high-frequency allied health clinical functions such as home environment functioning, mobility and transfers, multi-professional diabetes management and paediatric rehabilitation.  Service redesign topics such as business modelling, scheduling and data collection processes, and hub/recipient site collaborative service models have had strong engagement from allied health professionals through the network and the training program development stage.

Discussion

Expanding service access through the use of telehealth requires allied health workforce capacity development that extends beyond basic skills in the use of the equipment.  Clinically relevant and practical training, examples and peer support are in demand by health professionals who need to adapt the way they practice for the new technological mediums.

Biography

Ilsa Nielsen is currently employed as Principal Workforce Officer in the Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Department of Health.  This role is based in Cairns and supports workforce policy, planning and development for rural and remote allied health services in Queensland Health.  Ilsa has post-graduate qualifications in public health, education, and health economics and policy.  Her former appointments include academic and clinical physiotherapy positions, and she maintains involvement in undergraduate teaching as an adjunct senior lecturer at James Cook University.