The pandemic has accelerated the need to think differently about how the health system can support continued access to value-based healthcare. Karol Petrovska explains how technology can enable us to do this, with a focus on advancing virtual care capability.
The NSW Virtual Care Strategy 2021–2026, launched earlier this year, builds on the foundational and innovative work done by NSW local health districts (LHDs), specialty health networks (SHNs) and key partners, such as the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) and eHealth NSW.
While COVID-19 has had an extraordinary impact on how we deliver healthcare, it has meant we need to think differently about how to provide continued access to care; and how technology can enable us to do this.
The Strategy seeks to capture the energy in the health system around virtual care and build the momentum to develop statewide capability and consistency.
Key initiatives under the Strategy are already driving positive change:
- A statewide approach to remote monitoring capability is close to being a reality through the valuable work that eHealth NSW has undertaken to make this happen.
- The ACI is partnering with the Ministry of Health (the Ministry) to embed virtual care in outpatient models – work that is already happening in parts of the state that we are looking to extend more broadly.
- The Health Education and Training Institute and the Ministry’s Workforce team are focusing on building workforce skills and confidence, while the Clinical Excellence Commission is seeking to embed existing quality and safety principles into how virtual care is delivered.
- Comprehensive work is underway to engage with consumers across NSW, including tailoring approaches for Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
Embedding virtual care across the state
The Strategy aligns with a key objective in the NSW Health Future Health strategy to support uptake of virtual care more broadly across the NSW health system.
Strategy implementation is being led by the Ministry through the Virtual Care Taskforce, in collaboration with key partners from NSW Health pillar organisations, LHDs and SHNs. We are also very fortunate to have great consumer representation on the Taskforce, as well as from our primary health network colleagues.
We’ve recently engaged with LHDs and SHNs as part of the Virtual Care Roadshow visits to ensure the Strategy is capturing local priorities. The roadshows have highlighted a significant need for us to consider virtual inpatient care, particularly for rural LHDs. The recommendations from the inquiry into rural health also point to the need to use virtual care to support delivery of health care in rural areas.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff we have met with as part of the roadshows. Everyone has been generous with their time and advice. We are now turning our attention to engaging with our primary care partners to test how virtual care can further improve the patient journey across the system.
The future of virtual care
Ultimately, the aim is for virtual care to be seen as a normal option for care that offers a safe, convenient and positive experience for patients and clinicians.
To do this, we need to keep collaborating to grow our capability. We need the right technology solutions in place – that’s a big job that will take some time – but, just as important, is how we bring people along on this journey, both clinicians and consumers.
While we have had some impressive early adopters, it is crucial that we move forward together as a system and ensure we don’t leave any vulnerable groups behind as we transition to virtual care being a business-as-usual choice for care.
Your part in embedding virtual care across NSW health services is crucial and will contribute to developing a world-class digitally-enabled health system.
About Karol Petrovska
Karol is the Director for Virtual Care at the Ministry. She is leading a new team to drive a more coordinated approach to embedding virtual care across the NSW health system. Over the past 18 months, Karol has led the development of the Virtual Care Strategy and Implementation Plan and has also led the establishment of the Virtual Care Taskforce, of which she is chair. Karol has a clinical background in occupational therapy and in recent years completed a doctorate in public health. She has spent most of the last 20 years in the Ministry, with brief stints at other government agencies, including the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Department of Communities and Justice.