An innovative Spinal Telehealth Clinic at Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) was recently announced as a finalist in the SA Health Awards.

APA member Matthew Beard, the lead physiotherapist at the hospital’s Spinal Assessment Clinic, has been managing the program since its inception more than 12 months ago. The service links prison sites across the state using the SA Health Digital Telehealth Network to provide assessment, analysis of imaging, initial diagnosis and treatment recommendations without prisoners needing to leave their facility.

Prisoners are provided with timely evaluations of their spinal condition, communication is improved with prison health services and significant cost savings are made as a result of the reduced need for prison transfers and escorts to metropolitan health facilities.

Matthew said, “The aim of telehealth is to support the delivery of remote clinical care to consumers. Using this technology, an efficient and coordinated service between the RAH Spinal Assessment Clinic and the SA Prison Health Service has been established.”

“The clinic’s genesis was a result of both limited and costly access to surgical outpatient services for the prison population. It has potential for expanding its application by the physiotherapy profession generally for use across sectors, including aged care and for those living in remote areas.”

As telehealth opportunities such as these continue to grow, the APA maintains its advocacy for digital health consultations to be covered by Medicare and the private health insurance sector.

APA National President Phil Calvert believes growing utilisation of telehealth is one of the cornerstones of a more accessible and equitable health system for all Australians. “This is another example of the growing benefit of digital health consultations to patients. They allow physiotherapists to treat patients across a wide cross section of the community, and also have real potential to reduce the long term cost to the health system by treating patients when they first present with musculoskeletal or other conditions. The longer these patients wait to be treated, the more likely their condition will deteriorate, requiring more advanced and costly care.”

Phil Calvert and Matthew Beard are available for media comment.


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