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Paediatric ENT telehealth project concludes after successfully halving waiting times.

The Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network’s (PHN) Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Paediatric Telehealth project has concluded after successfully reducing waiting times in the New England and North West (NENW) region from 3-4 years to 1.5 years.

The project (and formation of the steering committee and working group) arose from concerns raised within the PHN’s NENW Clinical Council. Led by Dr Maree Puxty, the group identified the lack of access to public ENT services in the northern region of the PHN’s footprint.

Dr Puxty said of the project, “In 2017 more than 23 per cent of rural patients aged 0-16 were travelling over 500 kilometers to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital (JHH) for ENT appointments, while local waiting lists were up to 4 years.”

“These appalling statistics led to the launch of the PHN’s Paediatric Telehealth project to assist in finding a model to address this challenge. The development of a video-otoscopy and telehealth model, which has successfully reduced waiting times by 50 per cent, is an accomplishment for our clinical council.”

A model was developed for paediatric patients residing throughout the NENW region, including Moree, Armidale and Tamworth utilising telehealth systems. A number of local GPs were upskilled to use otoscopy equipment and participate in the project. The patient would consult with the GP at an outpatient clinic at the local hospital who would review and securely forward patient assessment and referral information to the John Hunter Hospital (JHH) ENT specialists.

Once reviewed, the patient, GP and ENT specialist consult together via telehealth. Additionally, the JHH ENT specialists developed training materials, clinical resources, and store-and-forward technology for local GPs. Assistance was also provided by the Hunter New England Local Health District clinical telehealth team to support the installation and use of telehealth technology at remote sites.

This year the project has successfully concluded with a VMO appointment of an ENT Specialist in Tamworth Base Hospital.

The PHN CEO, Richard Nankervis, has applauded the efforts of the clinical council and working groups. “The outstanding success of the ENT Paediatric Telehealth project has been as a direct result of the contributions and commitment of the clinical council and working group and we thank all involved for bringing their expertise and perspective to the groups.”

“We now have permanent face to face, telehealth and operative services in the NENW region for the first time in more than ten years, providing much needed ENT for children in that region; waiting times have dropped and the necessity of travel to Newcastle is reduced for a huge number of families.”

While Dr Maree Puxty is stepping away from the service from next year, Dr Niall Jefferson, Dr Hossein Ghazavi and Dr Michelle Guppy will continue to run the ENT clinics in tandem in Tamworth and Armidale using video-otoscopy and telehealth for children from the NENW.

For more information: Rebecca Brennan, Communications and Public Relations Manager 0437 478 138

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