Pi­lot launched for on­line af­ter-hours con­sul­ta­tions

Hamilton Metro News - - Front Page - Ged Cann

“Doc­tors need to be the sort of doc­tors that know how to as­sess and triage and treat a pa­tient in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion when you know noth­ing about them.” Dr Damian Tomic

A new six-month pi­lot from the Waikato District Health Board will al­low any­one who signs up to ac­cess on­line af­ter-hours doc­tors ser­vices for free, re­gard­less of where they live.

The pi­lot is part of the Vir­tual DHB ini­tia­tive which, since launch­ing in May, has al­ready seen 1150 pa­tients sign up.

Re­sponse has been high enough that plans are in place to work along­side the gov­ern­ment’s RealMe pro­gramme and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to al­low res­i­dents to sign up more eas­ily.

Cur­rently pa­tients can only sign up at the Waikato Hospi­tal.

The Vir­tual DHB en­ables out­pa­tients to con­nect with a doc­tor for a text or video chat on­line or with the HealthTap app on smart phone.

Waikato DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Nigel Mur­ray said more than 60 per cent of peo­ple in the Waikato DHB district live in ru­ral lo­ca­tions and pa­tients of­ten trav­elled long dis­tances for a short con­sul­ta­tion.

DHB clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of pri­mary and in­te­grated care Dr Damian Tomic said cost was also a com­mon fac­tor in­hibit­ing pa­tients at­tend­ing af­ter-hours care.

This re­sulted in high num­bers of pa­tients ac­cess­ing the emer­gency depart­ment in­ap­pro­pri­ately, and Dr Tomic said many pa­tients spent hours in ED when their query could have been an­swered eas­ily by an on­line doc­tor.

“This would free up ED for more ur­gent cases,” said Dr Tomic.

The on­line af­ter-hours ser­vice will be free and runs from Mon­day to Fri­day from 6-11pm and Satur­day, Sun­day and pub­lic hol­i­days from 8am-8pm.

Mr Tomic said it dif­fers from the ex­ist­ing free call Health­line num­ber be­cause peo­ple will be put through di­rectly to a doc­tor rather than a nurse, who can help with a di­ag­no­sis and pro­vide pre­scrip­tions in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions that can be faxed to the per­son’s lo­cal phar­macy to col­lect.

Pa­tients will be able to mes­sage the doc­tor through their home com­puter, smart phone or tablet wher­ever they are and ini­ti­ate a video chat.

For the af­ter hours ser­vice 15 doc­tors have al­ready been con­tracted, with two doc­tors on duty at any one time. These will op­er­ate from home.

“Doc­tors need to be the sort of doc­tors that know how to as­sess and triage and treat a pa­tient in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion when you know noth­ing about them,” Dr Tomic said.

“We do have to err on the side of cau­tion be­cause pa­tient safety is paramount to the DHB and those pa­tients that need to be fully ex­am­ined will be asked to go to a fa­cil­ity to be seen be­fore a pre­scrip­tion is writ­ten.”

Any con­sul­ta­tion notes com­ing from the af­ter-hours ser­vice will be sent to the per­son’s nor­mal GP and will be avail­able to view by the pa­tient in HealthTap. If you would like to sign up for the Vir­tual DHB or af­ter- hours on­line doc­tor ser­vice you can do so at the in­quiries desk at Waikato Hospi­tal. Photo ID is re­quired.

DHB clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of pri­mary and in­te­grated care Dr Damian Tomic demon­strates the Healthtap app.

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