Specialist emergency doctors will now be available at Maryborough District Health Service during the after hours period, thanks to a new telehealth pilot being delivered by Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) and My Emergency Dr.

The new After Hours Telehealth Pilot will be launched across several Health Service Urgent Care Centre’s (UCC) in the Western Victoria PHN region, with Hepburn Health Service and Ballan District Health and Care to commence services in September.

The pilot at Maryborough District Health Services’ UCC will commence on Monday 12 August 2019 and run until 7 August 2020.The video-call based service will be used by Urgent Care Centre staff in the after hours period via the MED App on a smart phone or tablet, which gives immediate access to a team of Emergency Specialists who can remotely access, diagnose and arrange treatment for patients. 

Western Victoria PHN Chief Executive Officer, Dr Leanne Beagley, said the use of telehealth has been identified as a potential alternative to addressing some of the workforce challenges and can reduce the significant after hours burden placed on some GPs.

“My Emergency Dr is a current provider of telehealth services in Victoria and has experience working with rural health services,” Dr Beagley said.

“The pilot aims to complement the important role that GPs play in the provision of after hours care in the community and responds to some of the significant workforce demands and challenges in rural areas.”

My Emergency Dr Chief Operating Officer, Dawn Floyd, said the video-call based service is staffed 24/7 by specialists in Emergency Medicine (FACEMs).

“Our emergency doctors are experts in making rapid, accurate assessments of all medical emergencies and can assess a patient’s situation via the built-in video on a smartphone or tablet. They can remotely assess, diagnose and arrange treatment including prescriptions, xray and pathology referrals.

“The MED doctors are all experienced specialist emergency physicians (FACEMs) who can provide layered support to the Urgent Care Centre, whenever there is a clinical need, 24/7.”

Photo: (L-R) Amor Kisling, Wendy Giddings, Dr Leanne Beagley, Dawn Floyd and Laura Martin

After hours is defined as:

  • outside 8am to 6pm weekdays;
  • outside 8am to 12noon on Saturdays; and
  • all day on Sundays and public holidays. 

Maryborough District Health Service Acting CEO, Laura Martin, said the telehealth pilot will provide the community with continuous access to specialist emergency doctors and support its dedicated Visiting Medical Officer workforce in obtaining a healthy work-life balance.

“This innovative project complements our already embedded Nurse Practitioner program and will enable our staff within our Urgent Care Centre to contact specialist emergency doctors by way of video conference during the hours of 10pm – 6am, 7 days a week,” Ms Martin said.

“Our fabulous nursing staff will support our patients during this process and are excited to be involved in such a wonderful pilot. MDHS truly appreciates the funding support provided by Western Victoria PHN, which allows this pilot project to be embedded at MDHS.”

UCCs are located in small rural communities where higher levels of trauma care are not available. UCCs provide initial resuscitation and have a limited stabilisation capacity prior to early transfer to a Regional Trauma Service or Major Trauma Service.

Evaluations of previously funded after hours initiatives identified a need across the region to consider alternate models for the provision of 24/7 after hours care that is not dependent on GPs and addresses recruitment and retention workforce challenges that commonly impact UCCs.

Western Victoria PHN will also work in partnership with Deakin University to undertake an evaluation of the After Hours Telehealth Pilot to determine whether telehealth is a financially viable solution to manage after hours service priority issues and whether the model is sustainable.