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Success of Southern DHB diabetes telemedicine clinic

1 November 2016

Success of Southern DHB diabetes telemedicine clinic featured at health informatics conference

Eighteen months after it was established, a Southern DHB diabetes telemedicine clinic is being held up as an example of excellence in telemedicine delivery at a digital health conference in Auckland this week.

Southern DHB Paediatric Endocrinologist and University of Otago senior lecturer Dr Ben Wheeler will deliver a keynote presentation entitled Diabetes Telemedicine – The Southern Experience at the Health Informatics New Zealand conference on Wednesday 2 November.

Dr Wheeler will address the conference of more than 800 international delegates on the past success and future potential of the clinics serving children and adolescents with diabetes in Central Otago and Waitaki.

“Diabetes clinics are particularly conducive to the telehealth model because appointments are, for the most part, not reliant on physical examinations,” says Dr Wheeler, who is one of only two paediatric endocrinologist on the South Island and has advised a number of organizations in Australia and New Zealand on tele-diabetes applications.

The clinics have greatly reduced the need for young people and their families to travel to Dunedin for specialist appointments – once per year instead of quarterly, for the most part - and have reduced costs and lost clinical time associated with the specialist having to travel for clinics.

The diabetes telemedicine clinics run very much the same as traditional clinics with a diabetes nurse specialist and a dietician attending the appointments with the patients and their families at the Dunstan or Oamaru hospitals, while Dr Wheeler, based in Dunedin, joins via video link, reviews blood glucose and other test results and makes recommendation for ongoing care.

“Children are quite used to technology, so they tend to enjoy the virtual appointments,” says Dr Wheeler. “The families we work with are pleased to have this choice to stay close to home or travel to clinics in Dunedin if they have other appointments to attend here.”

As for the future, Dr Wheeler says it is possible the telemedicine clinics could be expanded to include other sites in the district and beyond.

“This initiative is an excellent example of a clinician valuing patients’ time and leveraging available technologies to provide care closer to home,” says Chris Fleming, Southern DHB interim CEO. “It’s an honour for Ben and the specialist team to have been selected to present at the HiNZ conference. There are many organizations and agencies watching to see what lessons can be learned and what other clinical areas can benefit from this Southern experience with diabetes telemedicine.”

The Health Informatics in New Zealand Conference is New Zealand's premier event for health informatics. HiNZ Conference delegates include clinicians, health sector managers, academics, educators, government, IT professionals and industry experts.


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