During the Covid response, many consumers experienced telehealth for the first time. The Covid Consumer Leaders Taskforce highlighted the telehealth initiative as a priority focus during 2020.
The aim of the report was to:
- explore patient and family perspectives, experiences and responses to telehealth, as it changed, adapted and surged in response to COVID-19;
- fill the void created by the absence of patient voices in the public domain; and consumer reps in forums and around tables where decisions were being made; and
- promote patient voices as vital stakeholders and contributors to decisions guiding telehealth in a post-COVID future
From February to November 2020, Health Consumers NSW (HCNSW) gathered feedback via:
- A public virtual workshop for consumers in Aug 2020
- Online feedback including surveys, story submissions and feedback via HCNSW Amplify site
- Consumer and community group representative networks
- Care Opinion Australia
We asked patients, carers and families about their experiences, benefits, concerns and suggestions for telehealth consultations.
I am someone with chronic pain and fatigue … a compromised immune system… Sometimes I am unable to leave my house due to pain and/or fatigue. Previously I would have had to miss medical appointments, delay medical treatment or make my fatigue and/or pain worse.
Recording of Navigating Telehealth – The Patients’ Perspective open briefing on 6 May 2021.
Key project messages
Health consumers want:
- Telehealth to stay
- Universal access
- Equitable care
- Design for optimal care – with and for all stakeholders
- Boost the confidence of consumers and providers
I feel that telehealth has reduced the impact of my health on my employment, I feel much less worried about asking for a 5-10 minute break, as opposed to requesting a half day of leave.
I am also no longer using annual leave to manage my health and I am now keeping on top of my health management because I am not worried about having to take leave and the impact on my work.
In March 2021, we released the report “Navigating Telehealth, The Patients’ Perspective”.
The report highlights how critically important the consumer voice is in the design and implementation of the telehealth system moving forward. Patients, clinicians and system administrators, must partner and combine their strengths and expertise to effectively prioritise, design and implement innovative, safe and quality health services for the benefit all.
Our review revealed little evidence that the telehealth changes brought on by COVID-19 had been planned with health consumers or had been informed by patients’ telehealth experiences. This is slowly changing.
More recently consumer representatives have been engaged in some of the critical conversations around the implementation of telehealth, while processes are underway to collect and incorporate patient experience and feedback into the evaluation of telehealth services in NSW.
This report and its recommendations were provided to the Ministers and stakeholders within NSW Health as we continue to work in partnership with them to embed consumer feedback and experience into the system.
Telehealth success requires patient voices and health consumer stakeholders as equal partners at every point decisions are made. HCNSW continues to address that gap.