Supporting Regional Patients through Telehealth

17/Mar/2020     Health

When Hayley underwent brain surgery in September last year to cure her debilitating epilepsy, she had to travel over 1 300 km from Townsville to reach the Mater Centre for Neurosciences South Brisbane.  

While her surgery has so far been successful and she has been seizure free for six months, thanks to the work of Associate Professor Sasha Dionisio and Dr Jason Papacostas, she does still need ongoing support with her recovery. 

Thanks to innovative solutions, the Neurosciences team in Brisbane have been able to support Hayley’s recovery from the comfort of her own home using technology and creativity to continuously assess her progress.

Occupational Therapist Ray Kopeshke set up a Telehealth call with Hayley for her six-month cognitive assessment followed by a virtual driving test using an iPad.  

“Hayley had refractory epilepsy where she had a lobectomy removing the part of her brain that triggered seizures and it’s important for us to do follow up testing on her memory and cognitive skills to ensure she is recovering well,” Ray said.

“She was not allowed to drive while she was experiencing seizures nor in the twelve months following her surgery. The iPad-based driving test is a tool that allows us to gauge if she would pass a regular driving test on the road.

“The driving test is also a good way for me to observe her, awareness of the driving environment and insight into her own driving abilities. I am pleased to report she passed with a near perfect score which means she is making excellent progress and is likely to have the cognitive fitness to return to driving if she seizure free for another six months.”

Nurse Practitioner, Neurology Peter Jones explains that for many epilepsy patients their drivers’ licence is a significant marker of freedom and independence.

“When our patients are able to drive again it drastically improves their confidence and quality of life, they see it as a milestone in their recovery and are so happy to not be as reliant on others anymore,” Peter said.

“The fact that we can offer this test to Hayley via Telehealth means she does not have to travel to Brisbane for her follow up appointment and she has the confidence to keep up with her rehabilitation as she can see she is making improvements.”

Telehealth Service Manager Megan White said services not only help patients in regional communities but those who have difficulty travelling to hospital.

“For epilepsy patients who can’t drive the telehealth service is invaluable as they can have their follow up appointment from home. Outside of Mater Mothers’ the Neurosurgery team is one of the largest outpatient users of the Telehealth service,” Megan said.

“Mater averages around 1 500 Telehealth calls a month making us the largest provider of Telehealth services to public outpatients in Queensland.”

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