Improving Access to Specialist Dental Services Using a Telehealth Platform in Victoria, Australia
Australians in rural and remote locations have worse health outcomes compared to that of their metropolitan counterparts and this is due in part to poor access to health services. Public specialist dental services in Victoria, Australia are predominantly offered in the capital city Melbourne. For rural patients this can mean considerable travel, out of pocket costs and delays due to long wait-times. In 2015 Dental Health Service Victoria (DHSV) embarked on a pilot project to enable access to rural clients by linking community dental clinics with the Royal Dental Hospital Melbourne using a Telehealth platform. Aim: The objectives of the pilot were to develop specialist care pathways and enable patient access, support community clinicians to work to full scope through a peer education approach and to identify the appropriate equipment and telehealth platform to support this model of care. Method: DHSV launched its pilot project June 2015 collaborating with four Community Dental sites. The specialties trialled during the pilot project were Oral Medicine, Oral Surgery, Endodontics and Orthodontics. An action based research framework was adopted so that improvements to the operational framework and clinical pathways could be made throughout the life of the pilot. Results: By the end of the pilot programme, DHSV was satisfied the program objectives had been met and the modality was accepted by specialists, community dentists, and patients as a satisfactory substitution for a traditional face-to-face referral and consult mode. Conclusion: Based on this outcome, the programme was endorsed and implemented across the state of Victoria in January 2018.
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