General News — 13 February 2015

TELEHEALTH pioneer James Freeman wants to fix the crisis in Tasmania’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. The Mercury reported this week that staff at Clare House imposed work-to-rule restrictions and closed their books to all non-acute mental health patients because of chronic case overloading and underfunding. Health Minister ­Michael Ferguson has acknowledged the service is chronically underfunded and underserviced. He said the Government’s Green Paper had identified a range of areas across the state where safe and timely care was not provided, making a strong case for reform. The Green Paper also claims Telehealth, which has conducted trials for dermatology, obstetrics, renal, and mental health clinical consultations, is a way to bring serv­ices to patients. It says Tele­-health technology will be further enhanced through the National Broadband Network. Dr Freeman told the Mercury yesterday he believes the Medicare-funded Telehealth service is a practical solution for the whole state.

looking-at-the-screen_426-19316561“We could happily clear the entire CAMHS backlog in a month,’’ Dr Freeman said. Dr Freeman founded GP2U in 2011 and now provides a quarter of all Telehealth specialist consultations and 50 per cent of all Telehealth psychiatry consults around the country. GP2U delivered 237 psych­iatric consultations to patients around Tasmania and across the country via telephone last week alone. A free app called GP2U links the patient directly via Skype to a specialist. The call can be made anywhere on any smartphone and is free. Child and adolescent psychiatrist Rachel Crowder, who has treated Tasmanian clients using Telehealth, also believes consulting on the phone is cost saving and immediate. “It means you get an assessment there and then,’’ she said. Dr Crowder believes doctors will see more and more children and adolescents with mental health problems because of the growing use of ­social media by young people. “There are a lot of distressed parents out there,’’ she said.

Mr Ferguson yesterday said the Children and Mental Health Service was interested in innovation when proven to be effective and used a range of clinical techniques, including Telehealth when appropriate.“The Government is committed to tackling the historical underfunding of the service and as announced this week has found money for an expansion of clinical services as a starting point,’’ he said.  “We will look at all options to deal with the historical underfunding issue and address demand for the service.”

This article first appeared The Mercury, 12 February 2015.


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