Telehealth reaches complex lung patients in regional Queensland



The Bligh Government's investment in innovation is giving regional patients with chronic lung disease access to high-level specialist care closer to home.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said the expansion of telehealth services throughout the state meant patients such as Cairns local Sarah Mulligan could see her Brisbane-based specialist without having to travel.

"This extra funding is delivering telehealth services at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) for patients with cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and those requiring assessment before and after lung transplantation," he said.

"It means patients with complex lung disease living in regional areas can have follow-up consultations with specialists by video-link without having to leave their own communities."

Ms Mulligan, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at just six weeks of age, has been a patient of the hospital's Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Service for eight years.

"The telehealth technology now in place means she can now speak to specialist staff from TPCH's CF team every six weeks at her local community health centre," Mr Wilson said.

"Prior to the introduction of telehealth clinics, Ms Mulligan would only have direct contact with the CF team via outreach clinics held in Cairns twice yearly, as well as during two hospital admissions each year.

"More regular contact means her condition can be monitored more closely and gives her access to a wide range of specialist staff including a CF physician, CF nurse, dietician, social worker and physiotherapist.

Ms Mulligan said it was great to be able to speak to her doctor and other members of the team face to face.

"Because the team is so familiar with my medical situation, they can tell how I am feeling just by looking at me," she said.

" They are like a second family.

"Being able to attend an appointment at a local clinic rather than having to fly to Brisbane is also much better for me.

"With CF, I experience low lung function which means I get tired easily.

"Plane travel reduces my oxygen levels and makes me feel very lethargic.

"The telehealth clinics prevent my need to travel which is better for my general overall wellness," Sarah said.

Acting Director of Telehealth Services Andrew Bryett said the service being provided from The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) was helping save patients like Ms Mulligan the journey to Brisbane each year.

"The benefits for patients are enormous with reduced travel and less stress," he said.

"But it also benefits staff by helping educate local health care professionals in regional areas and providing them with the opportunity to upskill."

Mr Bryett said TPCH staff were working with the specialist and statewide thoracic teams, including the Sleep Disorders Centre, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and lung transplant areas.

"Telehealth will help support the specialist care for our existing and future patients from regional and rural Queensland who are referred to the four services in the thoracic program at TPCH," he said.

Mr Wilson said Queensland Health had provided nearly $105,000 in 2010/11 to improve access to health care for people with complex chronic lung diseases who live in regional and rural areas.

The funding is part of an additional $2 million worth of telehealth services around the State, delivering more health services to more people in more locations.

The Honourable Geoff Wilson
Telehealth reaches complex lung patients in regional Queensland


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