Nelson Marlborough DHB
Nelson Marlborough Health is aiming to increase the use of Virtual health clinic clinical consultations to avoid the stress and travel for patients associated with attending appointments in person.
A Specialists View
Dr Saxon Connor, a specialist surgeon at Christchurch Hospital says we can’t underestimate the impact travel has on patients. He regularly consults with patients from Nelson and says it’s often those who have to travel that are in poorer health. “Technology is at a level now where, other than a physical presence, there is very little difference between a virtual consultation and a face-to-face appointment,” Dr Connor explains. “Before a consultation all the assessments have been done so the meeting is about the conversation. In my experience, a nurse or GP is always present with the patient, so I am comfortable that the patient is being supported.” He says his role is to talk to the patient about their situation and treatment plan and this can be done via video as effectively as meeting in person and it is less exhausting for the patient. Dr Connor is heartened with the steady increase in the number of virtual consultations and encourages all patients to take up the opportunity of a video consultation if their health allows for it.
A Patients View
Mr La Pang was a patient who required advice and treatment from a specialist in Christchurch and was able to attend his appointment from Nelson via a video consultation. Originally from Burma, Mr Pang now lives in Nelson with his wife and family. Following a diagnosis, he was faced with having to travel to Christchurch to attend specialist appointments. Neither he nor his family speak English, so for the 75 year-old the logistics of travel were quite daunting. On top of this, Mr Pang’s condition affected his mobility, meaning standing or sitting for extended periods was difficult. “The long distance to travel, so much time waiting and also the need for a lot of people to help with interpreting and movement made it very difficult last time,” Mr Pang explained. Mr Pang was identified as a suitable candidate for a virtual consultation. So for his next appointment, rather than undergoing the discomfort of another trip to Christchurch, his sons were able to drop him off at Nelson Hospital where he met with a translator and public health nurse. With their help, he spoke to his neurologist at Christchurch Hospital via video link.
“I am a lot happier with local appointments and for me I didn’t feel much different—as long as I have an interpreter,” Mr Pang says. The relative simplicity of the technology and the opportunity to interact with it have all helped to create a level confidence in video consultations. The initiative will eventually extend into other community settings as well as into people’s homes—bringing care truly closer to home.