Telehealth is estimated to have saved Peter Mac’s patients more than a million kilometres of travel during 2020 alone.

The number of these consultations has surged during the pandemic, and as telehealth has been integrated into a widening array of services at Peter Mac.

Celia Marston, Peter Mac’s Occupational Therapy Clinical Lead, said telehealth had been an enabler in a time when “COVID has impacted on our ability to provide as many hands-on services”.

“Telehealth has become a core part of business and has been hugely beneficial for our patients needing help managing their fatigue – it eliminates the need for them to come to the clinic,” Ms Marston said.

“It has increased the number of patients we can see by allowing us to run online fatigue groups and reach more people across the state.”

Through 2020 there were 21,484 telehealth consultations at Peter Mac, and 2021 is on track to be another record year.

Peter Mac clinicians delivered a new monthly record 2,974 of these consults during September this year. This compares to 2,385 telehealth consultations across the whole of 2019 - the last full year unaffected by COVID-19.

The Peter Mac @ Home service – which sends nurses to patient homes to administer chemotherapy and a range of other supports which prevent a hospital trip or stay – has also moved into telehealth.

Nurse Unit Manager Michelyn Treadwell said while nurses visiting homes would remain a core part of this service, telehealth was extending capacity and could be more convenient for patients.

“Our nurses are using telehealth to check in with patients recovering from surgery, to ensure their dressings are intact and they are not in any pain,” Ms Treadwell says.

“We also check general wellbeing and vital signs, and the patient is guided to take their own blood pressure with a provided blood pressure machine.

“Patients are then free to get on with their day rather than waiting for the nurse to arrive.”

The hi-tech version of a face-to-face medical consultation, telehealth enables people to see their healthcare provider via a secure video chat on their iPad, phone or home computer.

After close to two years of routine use, healthcare providers and patients are now familiar with the technology and have seen the benefits.

Telehealth supports a frequency of healthcare visits needed to maintain optimal care without requiring patients to attend hospital to achieve this, noting the average patient round-trip to attend Peter Mac is 50km.

“Not only does telehealth save people from coming into the hospital, they are not spending hours in traffic or in waiting rooms,” Ms Treadwell said.

Even after the pandemic has waned, it is expected telehealth will remain an important adjunct to delivering care in combination with face-to-face visits.

October is National Telehealth Awareness Month, and you can read more about telehealth at Peter Mac here.

Telehealth consultations at Peter Mac:

  • 2017 - 164
  • 2018 - 935
  • 2019 - 2,385
  • 2020 - 21,484
  • 2021 - 18,128 to end of September