Telehealth Links Rural Northland Directly to Whangarei ICU

Courtesy Northland DHB - October 2019

Northland DHB has developed a new mobile Telehealth Cart and linked all of its Rural Hospitals (Kaitaia, Bay of Islands, Dargaville and in 2020 Rawene) to the Intensive Care Unit at Whangarei Hospital.

The Northland Telehealth and Mobility team developed this cart in conjunction with Northland DHB Intensive Care Physicians, Connect NZ, healthAlliance and the University of Queensland Centre for Online Health.

The carts allow remote patient assessment and management in the acute clinical setting, enhance assistance and decision making for acute retrieval requests from rural Hospitals, and provide Whangarei Hospital with an after-hours telestroke service.

The acute retrieval service is called RITA or ‘Rapid Information Telehealth Assessment’, and uses Zoom videoconferencing from a computer workstation, tablet or cell phone enabling a much broader and more integrated communication network than previously.

The mobile carts are moved to the patient’s bedside and from there all other functionality is controlled at the ICU end, enabling Rural Hospital teams to be hands off with the technology and concentrate on their patient. The ICU end can control the call and functions of the two cameras. The second camera has a powerful zoom, which is also remotely controlled.

RITA enhances Whangarei-ICU’s remote acute assessment capabilities to Rural Hospital Emergency Departments and wards, patient safety through direct rapid patient assessment, as well as advising on patient management of the acutely unwell patient. This includes assisting with decision-making in determining the safest way to transport the patient.

The carts create a truly integrated acute clinical telehealth network. The remote access capability allows for multiple clinicians in different locations to assess patients together in a multidisciplinary approach.

Whangarei ICU triaged 532 retrieval requests in 2018 of which 226 were allocated as Category 1 and 306 as category 2. Category 1 flights are crewed by an ICU doctor, an ICU retrieval nurse and a paramedic while category 2 flights are crewed by a paramedic only.

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