Telehealth improving access to healthcare for Killarney

Nurse Meggan Morton assists patient Leanne Smith while on a video call to a doctor based in Brisbane. Picture: JEREMY COOK

By Jeremy Cook

The introduction of recently developed telehealth technology at Killarney’s only medical facility is working to fill gaps left by shortages in the state’s rural workforce.

Sarah Fea resides as chief executive over the Killarney Memorial Medical Centre, located a 30 minute drive from the next closest health facility.

Ms Fea said healthcare access, or a lack thereof, remained one of the greatest barriers to tackling the health needs of rural communities, and the small town of Killarney was no different.

“We have worked hard to grow the number of doctors at our medical centre,” she said.

“We have done this via a mix of on-site and on-line doctors who can see patients according to their specialities.”

The centre boasts three doctors who patients can visit on-site. The introduction of what’s called a Visionflex unit has bolstered access to an additional three doctors based on the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Brisbane.

The unit uses video conferencing software to connect patients with a medical practitioner, based elsewhere, who then has access to a range of tools used to monitor and assess the patient.

While it might not be quite the same as being assessed by an onsite doctor, it’s considered the next best thing and a way to reduce the burden on thinly stretched health resources.

Patient Tahlia McPherson was full of praise for the technology after using it in Killarney.

“It was good that I could have someone, even though they were not in person in the room, who could still understand what I was going through,” Ms McPherson said,

“I could see the doctor and they could see me. The quality is really good.”

“They had a nurse in the room who checked my blood pressure and other things. I would definitely use it again.”

It comes after health authorities successfully trialled the technology at Clifton Medical Centre under a pilot program run by the Darling Downs and West Moreton Public Health Network in 2023.