What is telehealth?
Telehealth is a way for healthcare providers, patients and carers to access and manage care virtually.
It uses technology like computers and mobile phones to connect people in different locations, without the need for a face-to-face appointment.
A clinical appointment happens in a similar way as it would in person. There will be one or more healthcare providers taking part in the appointment. The patient can be with a local healthcare provider, who video conferences another healthcare professional, or other healthcare providers can dial in.
Why use telehealth?
Telehealth can make it easier and more convenient to attend appointments. This may mean:
- patients travel, parking and accommodation costs are reduced
- there is less disruption to life (family, work, routine)
- it is convenient, if you are unable to physically attend an appointment
- you can easily bring together different people involved in your care, including carers or other healthcare providers.
The treating team will discuss options and identify the best approach based on the patient’s needs.
People often mix telehealth and face-to-face appointments. People may choose to see their healthcare provider in person instead of having a telehealth appointment, depending on the circumstances.
What happens before a telehealth appointment?
The patient and carer should be given all the information necessary before the appointment:
- the date and time
- where to go (if not at home)
- who will attend
- how the technology will be set up.
The healthcare provider who made the appointment may share information (such as treatment history or wound pictures) with a local health provider. This helps them to better understand your condition. All information shared is sent securely to ensure patient privacy.
What happens during a telehealth appointment?
All healthcare providers who are part of the appointment will be introduced at the beginning of the appointment.
The patient can choose if a family member/carer or support person attends as well.
The appointment will run similar to a face-to-face appointment. If there is a healthcare provider with the patient, he or she will set up the technology (such as a video camera, TV or computer, microphone). Or, the patient may be at home or somewhere else. Everyone is able to see and hear each other.
If necessary, a portable camera can be used (for instance, to show a wound on the foot) or a photo may be taken and shared before or during the consultation.
What if there are problems (troubleshooting)?
The healthcare team who set up the appointment can provide more information, sort out any problems or set up a test call.
Refer to the patient instructions about how to connect to a telehealth appointment, which includes the patient support phone number.
Clinicians who need support can:
- refer to the instructions on attending a consultation using telehealth, including the clinician support number
- refer to the readiness checklist
- contact local telehealth leads.
How are privacy and confidentiality maintained?
All appointments conducted via telehealth are private and secure. NSW Health clinicians use dedicated video conferencing platforms to assure your privacy and confidentiality. Telehealth appointments will not be recorded.
As with a face-to-face appointment, notes will be taken during the appointment. This will be done by the healthcare providers and will be entered into your medical record, which is also confidential.
Who is involved in delivering telehealth?
Different organisations in the NSW Health system have a role in delivering telehealth:
- The Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) supports models of care and protocols for service delivery. The ACI works in partnership with local health districts (LHDs) and pillar agencies to enable telehealth as a safe and effective modality for clinical care.
- Local health districts deliver telehealth services, including local telehealth managers who provide support in the establishment and integration of telehealth into clinical practice.
- The Ministry of Health provides the planning, policy and service development.
- eHealth provides the technical infrastructure, advice and support.
What is the telehealth etiquette?
Patients can read more about etiquette in the PDF, Information about telehealth for patients.
Clinicians can read more about etiquette in the fact sheet, Telehealth etiquette for clinicians.
Should telehealth be used for violence, abuse and neglect (VAN)?
All violence, abuse and neglect (VAN) services are essential public health services. Many people who have experienced, or are at risk of violence, abuse and neglect present to NSW Health services and are in need of psychological and physical care.
As per NSW Health, telehealth should not be adopted as standard practice for the provision of all VAN services unless it is accompanied with comprehensive clinical guidance about: how to appropriately provide telehealth service that supports the identification, management and monitoring of risks to patients’ safety, privacy, and confidentiality and to service integrity. One reason for this is because perpetrators of violence often use technology to monitor, control or abuse victims.
For more information, refer to the NSW Health VAN information.