In 2016-17, the Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund supported the Mildura Base Hospital (MBH) Critical Care Telehealth Project. The aim of this project was to utilise telehealth for tertiary critical care consultations, supporting complex patients in the rural and regional setting thus reducing avoidable patient transfers. Partnering with Intensivists at Alfred Health (AH), MBH used a telehealth service to support the case review of complex patients as well as support the learning and development of clinicians.
Following the successes of this project, the Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund is continuing its funding to support the scaling of this project to three additional regional health services across Victoria commencing March 2019. Watch the full video to see telehealth in action and hear from the project team and consumers about how the service has benefited the local community.
If you are critically ill in one of our regional areas, it's difficult to work out who should be sent to town and who can be safely looked after at home which is more convenient for the patient and their families. The Telehealth project connects the experienced people in the city to help work out those difficult decisions as to who can be treated safely at home and who needs to come into the city.
Dr Alison Walker
The first thing I noticed about Mildura was how far away it is from everywhere else. It's 545 kilometres from Melbourne. It takes about six hours to drive in a car, about an hour and a half in the plane. And we really are very isolated up here. We're isolated geographically but also professionally. We don't have our colleagues around us. We have about 600 admissions a year and of them about 120 were flying south to Melbourne. And what we noticed over time was, the patients that were going to Melbourne, they weren't necessarily getting anything different done in Melbourne. They were just getting good ICU care but in the city. And so I began to wonder could we provide that here with the support of our city colleagues in a collaborative model and keep our patients locally. And we noticed very often our sickest patients, we would fly them down to Melbourne but unfortunately they would pass away within 24 hours and to me that is a disaster for the family.
Mildura Base Hospital Consumers (patient family members)
This is Rianne, 22 years old, severely disabled, became critically ill 12 days ago. Was brought into Mildura Base Hospital. We had the absolutely wonderful staff here. What was even better was we had teleconferencing with the Alfred Hospital ICU unit in Melbourne. If we didn't have this service with the Alfred Rianne would be in Melbourne now, without her family. There was talk of flying her out and we were told that she is getting exactly the same service here as she would get in Melbourne but with the advice from the Alfred team Rianne can stay in Mildura. So that's just wonderful. The other thing is the implications of the cost to all parties to be [able to stay home], within this hospital, without travelling. It has been absolutely wonderful, absolutely wonderful that we could stay in Mildura.
The benefits of the Telehealth project to patients and families is remarkable. Patients and families are able to stay closer to family, saving so much money in terms of loss of income, costs associated with travel and having the support of their loved ones near them is very important.
Dr Alison Walker
This is all about relationships. Relationships between the Alfred and us and making that communication better. Doctors have always phoned other doctors for advice. The difference with this is the doctor on the other end can see the patient, can see the results, can see the X-rays. And so they're then able to give us better advice because they've got better information.
The benefits of Mildura Base Hospital and Alfred Health are the relationship building across the sites, the collaborative support, professional development, education, a reduction of bed demand at the Alfred and the obvious potential for project scalability. The key outcomes of the project are that in the 18 months we've averted 43 transfers. So this equates to a greater than $380,000 saving in ambulance transfer fees through Adult Retrieval Victoria. We've also attended greater than 170 formal Telehealth consultations. At times we average around one to three averted transfers per month. And some days we do up to 6 Telehealth consults a day. Our initial funding for the Critical Care Telehealth project was received from Better Care Victoria innovation fund. I'm so very proud of our Telehealth project. The confirmation often that we are doing the right things at the right time is so comforting to the patients, families and also to the staff.