Revised telehealth position statement
By Simone White, Senior Communications Advisor
12 December 2022
Category: College and members
The College has released its revised telehealth policy statement, “Specialist GP Telehealth Consultations”.
The GP - patient relationship that is built over time and based on trust, respect and empathy is a crucial element for health professionals providing comprehensive, complex, equitable and timely care.
Most people, around 90 percent, get their healthcare needs met in the community by their local GPs and the teams they work within. In 2020, general practice had 20.5 million contacts with patients and this number is expected to rise to 23 million by 2030. These are big numbers when you consider New Zealand’s population of 5 million.
The revised statement reflects the College’s view on how telehealth could be used to supplement in-person consultations, while also acknowledging that decisions about how telehealth consultations can be integrated into a practice need to be made by the specialist GPs and their teams who understand the local context and what will work best for patients and their health outcomes.
During the pandemic, telehealth was a key reason that general practices were able to stay open and connected with their patients to provide remote consultations for non-urgent health concerns. Being able to reduce the number of people coming into a practice meant that the spread of COVID-19 between patients was also limited.
Working in the new post-pandemic world has allowed the healthcare sector to weigh up the benefits and the challenges of telehealth services for themselves, their practice, their patients and their location, and apply fresh solutions where appropriate.
The value that telehealth can add to the community has been well documented and continues to be used in many practices across the motu. However, as much as telehealth can improve the status quo it will not be accessible to everyone and does introduce new challenges – both aspects are outlined in the position statement.
We have also spoken to a few of our members from across the motu to get their perspectives and experiences of telehealth and the impact it had, whether that be beneficial or challenging. These will be published over the coming weeks.
The position statement also has a focus on how telehealth can help to achieve health equity for Māori and discusses the benefits for both Māori patients and Māori GPs, as well as encouraging practices who wish to introduce, expand, or explore telehealth to discuss and work through five key points to thoroughly understand how these services will work for clinicians, the practice, and patients.
As always, a member’s clinical judgement and patient safety should be at the heart of any decision about whether care should be provided in-person or through telehealth.
This statement is not intended to be a guide to conducting telehealth consultations. For links to training resources and suggested reading on some of the wider applications of telehealth, please refer to these resources.
As Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora continue to develop a new health system for Aotearoa New Zealand, the College has a vital role in advocating on behalf members for a primary health system that is more equitable, more accessible and takes advantage of modern technology.
Work will continue at the College to develop policy around other aspects of telehealth, such as its use in rural hospitals and the potential benefits of telemonitoring (to be released early 2023), as we build our vision of the future of community health, with patients and their doctors at the centre.
Read more about the College’s policy and advocacy work, such as submissions and position statements.