A student project, undertaken at CCCH, examined the benefits and limitations of telehealth for Enhanced Maternal and Child Health nurses in regional Victoria during the COVID-19 second wave.
Telehealth can improve access to health services in rural and regional Australia. However there are research gaps on the experience of delivering telehealth in a regional family health setting, particularly with families experiencing vulnerability.
The Enhanced Maternal and Child Health (EMCH) program provides targeted support to families experiencing vulnerability and is delivered primarily by nurses across all 79 Local Government Areas in Victoria.
A student project, undertaken at CCCH, examined the benefits and limitations of telehealth for EMCH nurses in regional Victoria during the COVID-19 second wave.
Data on the implementation of telehealth during the pandemic were collected through interviews with seven EMCH nurses in four regional Victorian areas. An interview guide was developed to elicit family and service level barriers and enablers to telehealth.
Findings showed the key benefits of telehealth included easy coordination of multiple stakeholders in multiple locations, leading to smoother referral pathways both in and out of EMCH. Telehealth can improve families’ access to individual practitioners and to entire teams of practitioners simultaneously. Thus, retaining parts of telehealth beyond the pandemic could improve families’ access to coordinated and specialist care. This has the potential to shift family health services towards a more holistic, client-centred response.
There were also limitations to telehealth use in EMCH. The most significant of these being the increased likelihood of missing environmental cues and warning signs via telehealth, due to the inability to see the whole environment in which a family is functioning. This highlights the important benefits of face-to-face nurse home visiting models for families experiencing vulnerability
Telehealth is best suited to parts of the EMCH model of care such as intake, referrals and co-consultation. However, it remains critical for a nurse to physically see the home environment at some point when working with families experiencing vulnerability. There is emerging evidence to support the feasibility of a hybrid model of virtual and face-to-face care in EMCH beyond the pandemic, but some important barriers remain. Barriers were identified within the three key domains consistent existing literature: access to and use of technology, technology skills, and attitudes towards using telehealth. Overcoming barriers to optimise the virtual care component required a coordinated effort from service funders/governors, practitioners, and families.
Download the full paper – Enhanced Maternal and Child Health (EMCH) nurses’ use of telehealth during the pandemic: feasibility of a virtual model of care in regional Victoria. EMCH evaluation: Student research project.
Download the information sheet – Using telehealth to support regional families in Victoria.
Watch a presentation on the project’s findings.
Contact the project investigator: firstname.lastname@example.org