A best practice telehealth guide for Allied Health clinicians on how and when to deliver care via ‘virtual consultations’ was launched this week at the sector’s annual conference.

The eight-page guide was developed by an Allied Health Aoteraoa New Zealand (AHANZ) working party, the umbrella organisation for 29 allied health professional associations representing professions including physiotherapists, speech-language therapists and dietitians. Georgia Wakefield, AHANZ’s executive director, launched the document at the Allied Health Scientific and Technical Conference being held in Wellington this week.

The guidelines are designed to help guide clinicians to safely use technology – including video conferencing, internet and telephone – to deliver services to clients who may struggle to access health services because of where they live, transport or time constraints or physical impairments.

The document points out the benefits of technology providing more convenient access to care as well as the risks of not being able to establish a rapport with the client/patient or conduct a physical examination.

It advises clinicians to make sure clients are fully informed about the limitations of a virtual consultation and give consent before delivering care via telehealth technology.

Also, to be culturally responsive, the guidelines advise clinicians that clients should always be offered an in-person consultation prior to a telehealth consultation.  Plus if a physical examination would add critical information then a telehealth or virtual consultation should not go-ahead until a physical examination can be arranged – though this may be able to be carried out by a clinician in the patient’s own locality.

The guidelines also gives guidance on standards of care for: client selection; identification; cultural responsiveness; assessment; diagnosis; consent; maintaining the client’s privacy and confidentiality; updating the client’s clinical records; communication with other health clinicians involved in the client/patient’s care; and follow-up.

The Allied Health Best Practice Guide for Telehealth can be found here.

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