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Community & Business

16 May, 2023

Whatever it takes

In a Darling Downs first, Clifton Medical Practice (CMP) is thinking outside the box when it comes to retaining GPs by utilising new technology allowing a doctor to assess patients in Clifton virtually.

From left: CCHS Primary Health and Wellness Manager Anne-Marie Donovan, Chair Andrew Douglas, Member for Condamine Pat Weir, Darling Downs West Moreton PHN CEO Lucile Chalmers, CCHS Executive Directors Rodney Watton (Community) and Wannapa Foytong (Operations) and Board members Derek Tuffield OAM and Anne Glasheen.

Starting last Friday, 26 May, new CMP doctor Feng-Wei Chen began consultations with Clifton patients virtually from Brisbane.

These telehealth appointments will be facilitated using an AIO telehealth cart equipped with the latest Visionflex ProEX software.

Dr Feng-Wei Chen was in Clifton earlier this month, getting to know the Clifton Community Health Services (CCHS)  team and community members.

The use of the telehealth cart was made possible through assistance and funding from the Darling Downs West Moreton Public Health Network (PHN).

The PHN has provided a state-of-the-art video health system to the Clifton Medical Practice to trial the use of
the technology in a rural setting. 

The AIO telehealth cart solution features an all-in-one medical grade computer running the latest Visionflex ProEX software plus peripherals such as blood pressure monitors and digital stethoscope, all on a manoeuvreable medical cart.

The University of Queensland has also been involved in the process and has been helping CCHS in its efforts towards acquiring a new doctor.

Until now, the search for a new permanent doctor in Clifton, which has been on-going for many months, has been fruitless.

Following the departure of many doctors for various reasons, patients have been struggling to book appointments within a short time frame as Dr Santiago Monsalve and Dr Franco Rodriguez-Letters have been kept very busy.

While the search for a new doctor has been ongoing, locum doctors have been brought in to assist, however Dr Chen is the first permanent doctor to join the team.

CMP will continue to provide face to face healthcare with doctors working in Clifton, with the new technology assisting by providing access when face to face is not possible or not necessary.

New CCHS Primary Health and Wellness Manager Anne-Marie Donovan, who had previously been the Interim Practice Manager for Clifton Medical Practice, said virtual care is here to stay and CMP is embracing it.

“We are so excited to use this technology with our patients, we are developing our policies and procedures to ensure our patients are well cared for and that assistance is available if they need it,” Ms Donovan said.

“The opportunity for our GPs to have a high-quality consultation from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, opens up so many opportunities for both our patients and our General Practitioners.”

Ms Wannapa Foytong CCHS Executive Director – Operations said this is an excellent example of community and government working together to solve problems and provide better services to all members of the community. 

“CCHS are very grateful for the support from the PHN for partnering with us to trail this exciting new equipment,” Ms Foytong said.

She said CCHS has been so impressed with the telehearth cart that it is looking into purchasing a second one for use in the Clifton Hospital within the next few months.

In addition to GPs, specialist doctors will be able to use the telehealth cart, expanding the ability for Clifton Hospital to cater for patients.

After being closed for some time, Clifton Hospital is again admitting patients and currently has two in its care.

Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN CEO Lucile Chalmers said the PHN has a key role in the health system to ensure primary care can provide accessible, quality health care to the communities in our region. 

“Access to health workforce in remote and rural communities continues to remain one of the greatest barriers in addressing health need in Queensland, particularly in the primary healthcare setting,” Ms Chalmers said.

“Across Australia digital technology is enabling innovation in the way health care is being delivered, connecting community and clinicians. 

“We are delighted to have been able to partner with Clifton Medical Practice in delivering this fantastic technology to continue to deliver great health outcomes to the local community.”

Dr Feng-Wei Chen said she had already met with many CMP staff and Clifton patients on Monday morning.

“I am so happy to be able to be part of this solution to meet the health needs of the local community,” Dr Chen said.

“I have a passion for rural health care, but my family commitments mean I need to stay in the city.

“This project enables me to have the best of both worlds.”

Ms Foytong said anyone who is unsure of how the telehealth cart operates or is curious to see it in person is welcome to come to Clifton Medical Practice and a staff member will take five minutes to show them, providing it is not currently in use.

The video health equipment and 12 months of software was fully funded through the University of Queensland and Darling Downs & West Moreton PHN.

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