Taking Telehealth to the community
23 March 2022
With a significant rise in the number of community cases of COVID-19, both Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals are scheduling outpatient appointments as Telehealth appointments to help free up staffing resources to support critical areas.
While Telehealth is not a new concept, the Bay of Plenty community can expect to be offered more virtual appointments which can be enjoyed from their own home. Telehealth is a secure and private health care appointment held with the patient and whānau either by video or telephone.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) Business Leader for Surgical Services Dot McKeown supports the move for outpatient appointments to be scheduled as Telehealth appointments.
“At the BOPDHB we’re looking at ways we can do things differently for our patients, their families and whānau and telehealth gives that opportunity, particularly in the COVID 19 pandemic environment. Telehealth reduces the risk for patients who would otherwise come into our hospitals for an in-person appointment,” she explains.
“For patients it also means they don’t have to travel, parking is not an issue and they’ll save money on fuel. Patients can access health care in the comfort of their own home, or workplace. For the services, it means we can reach further. We’ve got a really large area here at the BOPDHB and Telehealth means that service providers can reach patients in remote areas quickly and easily.”
Telehealth is already used successfully within the BOPDHB and Emergency Medicine Specialist Matt Valentine has seen it grow as more patients experience the advantages it can have.
“Even before COVID, the impetus for Telehealth was growing. This had a lot to do with the distances that many patients lived from specialists in Aotearoa. We’d have patients who would have to take the whole day off work and spend quite a lot of money on petrol to come to follow-up appointments that were really quite brief and didn’t require physical interaction.”
Te Pare o Toi, Pou Umanga (Business Leader), Stewart Ngatai believes Telehealth supports hauora and iwi health providers in their engagements with the communities they are serving, and enabling a relationship through a different means.
“One of the fundamentals of equitable health care for Māori is having access to health services,” explains Stewart. “Our world has changed a lot, especially for our rangatahi (youth). Many of our youth connect more in a digital space so I think from an equity perspective, if we’re able to have our rangatahi access health through a means that they’re confident with – like on their smart phone – then that’s actually improving equity for our rangatahi as they are more informed, have greater access and supports their health decisions.”
“That’s the important part of equity. If you’re informed about your health, you have better options and can choose the right option for you, your tamariki, and the rest of your whānau,” said Stewart.
“We acknowledge that some of our rural communities have limited access to online services for a range of reasons and will continue to work with Iwi, hauora and service providers to improve local access,” he added.