Telehealth system used in Bay of Islands for first time

Aug 2018

A new Telehealth link has been used for the first time at Bay of Islands Hospital to assist in the care of a seriously ill baby.

Five years ago the Northland DHB installed a mobile Telehealth device (NEMO) in the Intensive Care Unit at Whangārei Hospital. The aim was to help provide the best clinical advice to colleagues in Kaitaia Hospital and determine the most appropriate way of transferring patients to Whangārei or Auckland.

To link all the DHBs' referring centres, it recently installed a new Telehealth link at Bay of Islands Hospital, in Kawakawa.

The technology was used for the first time after the baby was taken to a general practice in Kaikohe, 20 minutes from Bay of Islands Hospital by ambulance and more than an hour from Whangārei, with complications from bronchitis. The decision was made to stop at Bay of Islands Hospital so he could be assessed by the ICU team in Whangārei via a Telehealth link.

The Kawakawa clinical team, the GP who had travelled with the baby boy, the Whangārei Intensive Care specialist team, paediatrician and clinical flight team were all at the assessment.

"Under normal circumstances helicopter retrieval with the ICU team would have been instigated," said Michael Kalkoff, Northland DHB consultant anaesthetist/intensivist.

"Instead the Telehealth link was set up and the child was assessed and treated by the whole team."

After the child's condition was stabilised it was agreed that he could be safely transferred by ambulance to Whangārei Hospital. That meant the rescue helicopter could be stood down, saving money and keeping it available for other calls.

"It was amazing to have the IT facility and back-up from the ICU team here in the Mid-North," Broadway Health GP Dr Justine Woodcock said.

"It felt very reassuring, and really added to the patient's care and a positive outcome."

The Zoom link to Bay of Islands Hospital is actually a predecessor to a Mobile Clinical Cart, which is being developed by the DHB Telehealth and Mobility team in collaboration with Zoom, the University of Queensland and HealthAlliance, which will be available in the new Accident & Medical Department and hospital wards, which are due to open next month.