The four Northern Region district health boards have started rolling out a cloud-based telehealth service.
Northland, Waitemata, Auckland and Counties Manukau DHBs have developed the new service in close collaboration with their clinical teams.
The technology is provided by Zoom Video Communications as a safe, secure and unified video, audio, content sharing and chat platform to help facilitate virtual patient care workflows, remote specialist visits, population health management and education and care coordination.
Counties Manukau health director of hospital services and regional telehealth programme sponsor Phillip Balmer says telehealth is a vital cog in the DHBs’ goal of having a more joined-up region with improved access to healthcare and more equity.
"The new service will help us realise our aim of seeing a more integrated health system in the Northern Region over the next decade," Balmer says.
"Our vision is that telehealth, via Zoom, will be widely available for real-time consultations between hospital-based clinicians, primary care and community clinicians, and between patients and their team of care providers, whether in a hospital or community setting."
In July a one-year-old patient from Kaikohe with severe respiratory distress was taken to the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa by ambulance with the attending GP. Once there, using the new regional telehealth service, the patient was assessed by Whangarei Hospital’s intensive care unit paediatrician and clinical flight team for a possible helicopter transfer.
The teams from the different sites were able to stabilise the patient, with real-time coordination via telehealth contributing to the young patient having a successful outcome. This also meant that the ICU team was able to stand down the helicopter transfer, saving costs and keeping it available for other potential calls.
Hospital and community-based clinical teams have also started using the new service’s secure instant messaging feature, which is improving their clinical and administrative communication.
The Northern DHBs' shared IT service provider, healthAlliance, has supported the clinically led implementation of telehealth in partnership with Zoom's New Zealand reseller, Connect NZ.
healthAlliance chief clinical information officer Karl Cole says “telehealth is convenient and potentially life-saving, particularly for people who live in remote locations or who are unable to reach health services”.