Telehealth clinics increase access to care for adults with cystic fibrosis living in rural and remote Western Australia
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© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Introduction: A significant proportion (15%, n = 28) of the adults with cystic fibrosis (CF) in Western Australia (WA) live in rural and remote areas and have difficulty accessing specialist care at the state adult CF centre, located in Perth. We aimed to increase access by offering telehealth clinics, and evaluate the impact on health outcomes. Methods: Telehealth clinics were offered via videoconference over a 12-month period, with uptake and satisfaction measured at the end of the intervention. Participants could still attend in person clinics at the CF centre if requested. Other outcomes comprised healthcare utilisation (HCU), spirometry, weight and health-related quality of life. Results: In 21 participants, total clinic visits increased from 46 (median (range) per participant 2 (0–6)) in the 12-month period preceding the study to 100 (5 (2–8), p < 0.001) during the intervention. Of the 100 clinics in total, 66 were delivered via telehealth. Satisfaction with telehealth was high and most (94%) participants agreed that telehealth is a good way to deliver CF care. An increase in intravenous antibiotic days (incident rate ratio (IRR) 2.3, p = 0.03) and hospital admission days (IRR 3.7, p = 0.01) was observed. There was an improvement in the vitality domain of the Cystic Fibrosis Questionnaire – Revised (p < 0.05). Discussion: Telehealth had good uptake and increased clinic attendance in adults with CF living in rural and remote WA, and had high satisfaction amongst participants. The increase in HCU, resulting from increased detection and treatment of exacerbations, may improve long-term outcomes in this population.
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