While the Patea & District Community Medical Trust continue to search for a GP they've teamed up with Pinnacle Midlands Health Network and Taupo Medical Centre to provide an innovative solution which meets their patient's needs, without the need to travel out of town.
Trustee Brett Honeyfield is delighted to see a comprehensive virtual solution implemented for the patients.
"The GPs at Taupo Medical Centre have full access to the patient's record. This is a particularly important part of our secure video conferencing service as we support a lot of complex, high needs people. While the doctor isn't here in Patea, they are fully informed of a person's medical history which means they can make the best decisions about their care.
"When a patient arrives at the clinic one of our nurses takes them through some basic screening assessments to make sure a video conference will suit their medical needs, and then briefs the GP before the consult. A nurse also supports the patient during their consultation, helping with any next steps such as further diagnostic tests," Honeyfield says.
Honeyfield adds that continuity of care is important for the Trust.
"It's great to have Taupo Medical Centre on board with us for the next few months. This means patients have the opportunity to establish a relationship with the Taupo team similar to what they would if there was a locum in Patea."
Pinnacle Midlands Health Network has been working with the Trust since they signalled their problems recruiting a GP, and have been hard at work putting together this virtual solution for weeks now.
"We have designed a robust system that securely allows for a real-time conversation with a GP. We wanted to simulate a regular appointment as much as possible and that meant setting up equipment in Taupo so the doctor can easily speak to the patient through one screen, while looking at the patient's record and making notes on another," says David Oldershaw, interim chief executive of Pinnacle Midlands Health Network.
"While our immediate concern was restoring service to Patea, it's exciting to see how this could develop because we know many rural areas could easily face the same problem.
"Our IT team are now exploring ways that technology can add touch and feel to the consultation to make it even more real. For example, we're looking at adding a portable heart rate monitor that shows the patient's heartbeat for the doctor. We're also thinking about how to include spirometry - a test used to diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect breathing," Oldershaw adds.
Taupo Medical Centre were a logical centre to approach, as they are experimenting with a number of innovative consultation methods, all aimed at addressing the increasing needs of the future.
"We're looking at shared medical appointments, group consultations, phone triage and virtual consultations. As we gain experience with these different methods we will see how they complement the usual face-to-face GP visits," says Dr Glen Davies.
As the video conference is closely simulating a real-life appointment a huge range of conditions can be now 'seen' and treated by a GP without leaving Patea.
The nursing team at the clinic also continue to see and treat a range of conditions under standing orders, which has been working really well in the weeks that the clinic has been without its own GP.
Patients are encouraged to ring the clinic to discuss their needs, and make an appointment.