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The adoption of video-conferencing technology for patient consultations in Australia is at a tipping point.

For the first time, national standards and clinical guidelines for the use of telehealth by nurses and midwives will be available from next year; a funding mechanism is in place and training is set to be rolled out nationally.

The telehealth training and support project announced in May has been recognised as a major win for the development of a national approach to telehealth and as way to upskill nurses and midwives to deliver online consultations.

Government policy priorities, access to technology and funding support have aligned for nurses to forge ahead with the use of telehealth as a substitute for some face-to-face consultations.

One early adopter is the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne, which has been trialling the use of video-consultations with patients in rural Victoria in a six-month trial.

RCH has also appointed a telehealth program manager to drive the introduction of virtual consultations to become part of regular hospital practice over the next three years.

“Our vision is to make telehealth consultations part of ‘business as usual’ at the hospital and for it to become an outreach alternative for patients,” says RCH’s Susan Jury, who is also a registered nurse.

Telehealth clinics have been introduced into multiple departments across the hospital, including neurology and allergy and dermatology, and are mainly used in the follow up and review of patients.

Jury says the main advantages of using telehealth for rural families are savings in time and cost for families due to the reduced need for travel and the associated time off work and school.

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