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June 2020

Lady conducting telehealth consultation with client on the computer jpeg
RCH clinician Ioanna Coutsouvelis during a telehealth appointment.

Telehealth boom for Royal Children’s

Thousands of Victorian families have seen their doctors from home as part of a COVID-19 telehealth boom at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

In response to the pandemic, the RCH quickly converted 50 per cent of its clinical consultations to over the phone or online, using telehealth, allowing continuity of care for patients from the safety of their own homes.

That increased to nearly 70 per cent in just a few weeks.

Departments such as dermatology, endocrinology and diabetes and neurosurgery were just some of the RCH departments adapting to telehealth and seeing the positive effects in their patients.

‘It has been a unique privilege to be invited into our families’ homes and I have been delighted to see many of my more reticent children more comfortable to interact in their own environment, often helped by family, pets and siblings,’ said director of neurosurgery Alison Wray.

‘Being able to share screens with families has been very powerful and they have loved seeing their scans.

‘It has made discussions about scan results much easier.’

In April, 2019, there were a total of 231 telehealth consultations at the RCH and in April, 2020, more than 11,200 appointments were conducted using this technology.

‘It’s enlightening to see that clinical nurse specialists are also accessing the platform to provide care and that consultations are being provided to families who live just down the road,’ said telehealth co-ordinator Chin-Mae Raymundo.

‘The RCH has always been great at finding creative solutions and I believe this is where our opportunities for growth are – we are finding gaps in services that can be filled by implementing a telehealth-based model of care.’

The hospital also expanded its IT system to cope with the increased demand, using split screen technology to allow patients to view their scans during consultations.

The roll-out of new IT hardware included monitors with built-in webcams which meant that hosting telehealth consultations was more accessible across the hospital.

‘Increasing our telehealth service to almost 70 per cent has allowed us to continue to provide great care to our patients during this pandemic and helped us slow the spread of coronavirus, keeping our patients and staff safe,’ said chief operating officer Jane Miller.