Doctor conducting a telehealth consultation at desktop computer.

Chronic pain support boosted by telehealth in the Hunter

16 March 2021

Chronic pain can have significant effects on a patient’s day-to-day life and mental health, particularly when the body keeps hurting weeks, months, or even years after an injury.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunter Integrated Pain Service turned to telehealth to help patients across the region continue their chronic pain management when they couldn’t see doctors face to face.

Telehealth provides support to patients

“We’re now using Skype for Business with patients in several ways. We do one-on-one consultations as well as online webinars for larger groups,” Dr Hema Rajappa from Hunter Integrated Pain Service said.

“Prior to COVID, we were running in-person seminars of 25-30 people to go through pain education but have since moved to webinars where we can reach a broader range of people across the region” Dr Rajappa added.

“We’ve had to develop and adapt our online services as we go. We found that asking patients to watch a video on pain management wasn’t as effective as the interactive nature of a live webinar.”

Doctor conducting a telehealth consultation at desktop computer.
Dr Hema Rajappa from Hunter Integrated Pain Service meets regularly with colleagues via Skype for Business.

However, face to face appointments have not been fully replaced with online appointments. Patients need to be assessed as to their suitability for Skype for Business appointments, to ensure they are getting the most appropriate care.

“We have to select our patients carefully for online appointments,” Dr Rajappa said.

“A patient who is already in pain may find getting online difficult, and that can be very frustrating. We check if they are clinically suitable for online interactions first. We then contact them regarding their access to the internet and familiarity with using Skype or other platforms before emailing them a link.”

“Some patients prefer to access their online appointments in their GP surgery. That way the practice nurse or GP can also participate in the assessment and formulation of pain management, so everyone is then on the same page.”

Skype for Business provides convenience

For Hunter Integrated Pain Service, patient selection for online appointments and webinars is therefore very important, as is the need for flexibility by clinicians.

“Skype for Business is so convenient, once you get used to it. With group sessions we’re still adapting and evolving, but with individual appointments it’s really easy, because we’ve had a lot of practice,” Dr Rajappa explained.

“Even beyond the pandemic, we will continue with online appointments and interactive webinars, which are providing a great alternative for our patients.”

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