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“If a picture speaks a thousand words than a video must speak a million,” said Dr Eddie Tan, as he addressed an auditorium of clinicians at Waikato Hospital.

Dr Tan is one of Waikato District Health Board’s renal physicians who trailed telehealth consultations. Telehealth allows for safe and secure video conferencing with patients and specialists. The trial identified 46 patients who attended a total of 52 virtual clinics.

“We set up virtual clinics to do real time video links this once a month, with stable patients and nurse on the other end to be seated with the patients. Any test results were scanned and emailed back to the clinic,” said Tan.

The results were very positive with the majority of patients rating the clinics for service and access eight out of 10 or higher.

“There were also other advantages, which included giving physicians more time to see patients impromptu rather than them having to wait till we were next in their region or they had an appointment with us in Waikato,” said Tan.

“For some patients that meant if they choose to stop treatment, we could have some real discussions, face-to-face so to speak, about end of life care.”

Tan explained from a financial perspective the project had already recorded a cost saving, with set up costs been negligible.

“Without having to account for travel costs and time spent traveling we estimated it was about $914 per half day, per clinician in savings,” he said.

While Tan said there were positives to delivering consultations via telehealth some further considerations were needed.

“For one more space is needed as the specialist needs a room and the patient, so you need double the consultation space and nurses are also required to do some of the diagnostic testing with the patient because they are in the room, therefore there are some requirements for upskilling.

“Virtual clinics are cost and time effective, and clinician time is used more efficiently while reducing our carbon footprint on the environment,” he said.

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