Telstra Health has partnered with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Victoria and it has nothing to do with planes. In fact, the service we’re providing is entirely focused on helping to keep the Flying Doctors out of the air as much as possible.

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when we’re talking about health, which is why the Royal Flying Doctor Service is working with Telstra Health to provide telehealth services to residents in Kerang, which is 300 kilometres north of Melbourne, to provide them with easier and regular access to specialists.
As Telstra Health’s Colleen Birchley explains, thanks to technology, telehealth services can help bridge the geographical access gap to healthcare that many Australians living in regional and remote areas face.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australians in rural and regional areas have higher mortality rates and lower life expectancies than those in urban areas. Living in a rural area often means it’s difficult to see a specialist. You may have to wait months for an appointment and then have to travel a long way to attend.

And for some, the long distances and wait times are enough to prevent them from seeking the specialist care they need. Thanks to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Victoria, distance is no longer a barrier. For patient Ron Hick, the 300 kilometres between him and a diabetes specialist meant an eight hour round trip to Melbourne every three months.

Thanks to a this partnership between the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Telstra Health, Ron now receives specialist treatment without having to leave his home town. The Royal Flying Doctor Service has been delivering telehealth to rural communities in Victoria since November 2013 and as part of the partnership local patients with diabetes can better connect with endocrinologists based at Baker in Melbourne from their local health centre.

Telstra Health has worked with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to build a new telehealth platform that facilitates this service by bringing together video conferencing capabilities along with secure document management, advanced clinician scheduling and an online booking system in a fully integrated and customisable solution.

Describing how this service has impacted him, Ron said: “The greatest impact for me has been the fact that instead of having to travel four hours each way to see my specialist, I now travel four minutes. I have great respect and admiration for the service.”

Since rolling out the platform, 320 consultations have been delivered via telehealth, saving patients more than 3,000 hours travel this financial year alone. This is anticipated to double over the next 12 months. The technology has been so well received in Kerang that the Royal Flying Doctors is planning to expand the service to other areas and for conditions other than diabetes.

Using technology to help Australia’s healthcare sector better serve patients in a connected world is a strong focus for Telstra Health. Improving connectivity between patients and clinicians through technology improves the continuity of care that clinicians can offer their patients.