Every referral is a patient with a problem and a doctor who needs assistance

Jane Connolly1, Lex Lucas2, Vicki Sheedy3

1 ACRRM, GPO Box 2507, Brisbane, QLD, 4001, j.connolly@acrrm.org.au

2 ACRRM, GPO Box 2507, Brisbane, QLD, 4001, l.lucas@acrrm.org.au

3 ACRRM, GPO Box 2507, Brisbane, QLD, 4001,v.sheedy@acrrm.org.au


ACRRM Tele-Derm service is designed to provide rural doctors with rapid access to specialist dermatology advice and receives approximately 500 cases annually from rural doctors seeking assistance using a telehealth store and forward model.

This presentation will show the impact an online advice service can have on rural health services through supporting the rural generalist to treat their patients locally, improve their knowledge and skills in an environment of support and encouragement to operate at the top of their licence.

Skin conditions account for 14.8 out of every 100 patient encounters in general practice and 10.4% of the total reasons for encounter, making skin conditions one of the most common presentations in Australian general practice.[1]

Skin disorders can be chronic, painful, visually distressing, life altering and at worse cause death, however long waiting lists and large distances to travel are disincentives for patients to seek medical assistance.

Results from a recent survey to ascertain the impact the service was having in reducing the need for patients to be referred to a dermatologist showed that only 10% of the complex dermatology cases were not resolved locally with the support of Tele-Derm and required a referral to a specialist dermatologist.

The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine Tele-Derm service is a store and forward teledermatology service, free for all Australian rural doctors.  Funded by the Australian Government, Department of Health Rural Health Outreach Fund the service has been operational for twelve years.

In addition to responding to cases submitted for advice, the Tele-Derm dermatologists provide education material in the form of ‘case of the week’ (grand rounds style) and education cases to the 2700 online users on a weekly basis.  Tele-Derm hosts an encyclopaedia of dermatological conditions based on previous submissions to the service. Regular quizzes, discussion forums, journal article appraisals, and didactic articles and video presentations on important dermatological topics are also available.

Tele-Derm provides a safe environment of participation and collaboration where experiences amongst training and trained, isolated rural doctors are shared in a ‘community of practice’ to improve the care provided in rural and remote communities.

[1] Britt H, Charles J, Henderson J, et al. General practice activity in Australia 2000–01 to 2009–10 10 year data tables. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2010.

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