Emergency Telehealth Service

Changing WA's regional health landscape

Clinician and patient using a VC unit

The WA Country Health Service has more than 70 regional and remote hospital emergency departments and emergency care facilities spread across the state. Smaller regional hospitals do not have the volume of emergency presentations to sustain full-time emergency medicine specialist teams. These specialist doctors are usually only based in metropolitan centres where there are larger numbers of emergency patients.

Whilst regional GPs and hospital nursing staff are trained to deal with emergency presentations, addressing the geographically dispersed, intermittent demand for emergency medicine specialists is challenged by cost effectiveness, workforce availability and therefore service sustainability.

The Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) is addressing this access issue by making specialist emergency medicine doctors available via high definition videoconferencing to support regional clinicians with very acute emergency patients.

Access to the ETS provides local clinicians with immediate access to highly trained emergency medicine specialists who deal with these types of cases on a daily basis. This enhanced specialist support is greatly valued by local GPs and nursing staff based in regional towns.

The ETS is delivering effective and efficient management and treatment of country emergency department patients, helping local country clinicians to save lives and provide an emergency response for critically ill and injured patients.

Since its humble beginnings as a pilot project in 2012 linking with eight hospitals in the Wheatbelt, the ETS has expanded significantly, currently servicing 76 hospitals, health services and nursing posts across WA.

The Emergency Telehealth Service has been developed under the Royalties for Regions funded half a billion dollar Southern Inland Health Initiative (SIHI), and is part of the clinical reform activity aimed at improving access to the medical workforce, in particular Emergency Medicine Specialists.

 

What is the Emergency Telehealth Service?

The ETS is a telemedicine service provided by emergency medicine specialists using high definition video conferencing equipment installed in participating regional and remote hospital emergency departments (EDs) and nursing posts. The ETS supports clinicians in these rural and remote sites by linking them to an experienced, specialist emergency workforce to assist with the diagnosis, treatment and transfer of critically ill and injured emergency patients.

The ETS is particularly valuable where there is no on-call doctor available to smaller regional hospital sites and nurses need to access a doctor.  The ETS provides a greater level of medical support to regional areas and helps to lift the level of knowledge and expertise of all regional clinical staff by supporting their professional development and reducing their professional isolation. 

The objectives of the ETS are to:

  • Improve access to timely medical advice for emergency patients
  • Provide accessible, accountably emergency medicine advice
  • Provide effective, appropriate diagnosis and treatment in local hospital EDs keeping patients closer to home
  • Support rural clinicians to provide the right care at the right time where possible close to home.

Map of ETS sites in regional WA

Here you will find a map showing the current ETS sites in regional WA and the proposed sites.

How does the technology work?

Telehealth provides two-way audio and high definition videoconferencing between the regional hospital's ED and the treating emergency medicine specialist in Perth, via the WA Health Information and Communication Technology (ICT) network.

The telehealth equipment, including remote controlled cameras and a video screen, is installed in resuscitation bays at participating regional hospitals and nursing posts enabling  ETS physicians in Perth to examine and talk to patients, and to guide local clinical staff in the regional EDs through effective medical emergency treatments.

Contact details

ETS Administration (office hours)

Phone: 9224 3848   Fax: 9224 3873

Email: WACHS.etsadministration@health.wa.gov.au

ETS facts and figures (as at June 2017)

  • ETS is currently provided at 76 hospitals, health services and nursing posts across the Wheatbelt, Great Southern, Goldfields, South West, Kimberley, Pilbara and Midwest regions.
  • More than 50,000 patient consultations have been conducted via the ETS since its introduction. 74% of these patients have received treatment on-site, which has reduced the need for them to travel to a larger centre to see a doctor. Many patient retrievals and transfers have been facilitated by the ETS physician.
  • The ETS is predominantly staffed by Fellows of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (FACEMs) who have extensive training and expertise in examining, diagnosing and treating emergency patients.
  • The ETS also has a small number of non-specialist doctors, generally GPs or other medical officers, who have extensive emergency department experience and have worked in WA Country Health Service sites previously.
  • ETS Emergency doctors are available 24/7 Friday to Monday and 8am to 11pm other days. Outside these times, major regional hospitals, metropolitan EDs and the RFDS provide medical support to smaller regional hospital EDs.
  • As well as the provision of emergency support, the ETS provides educational and upskilling opportunities for nurses and GPs working in rural EDs utilising a ‘virtual classroom’ to run statewide education sessions.
  • The ETS operates as a ‘virtual ED’ recording all patient consults on standard medical record documentation as is normal for the ED where the patient is located.  Patient records, including medical notes, medication requirements and x-rays are held by the treating hospital, as per normal practice.