Telehealth tips for patients

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Dr Ursula Sansom-Daly leads the Mental Health Research Stream within the Behavioural Sciences Unit. Ursula is an early career clinician-researcher and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with the Behavioural Sciences Unit, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of NSW (UNSW) Medicine. Alongside her research role, she is also the Clinical Psychologist at Sydney Youth Cancer Service the leading clinical team for the treatment and care of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) aged 15-25 years with cancer in Sydney.

Reflecting across her dual clinical-research roles, telehealth consults present different challenges to face-to-face consults, Dr Sansom-Daly says.

“It's apples and oranges in terms of face to face versus telehealth interactions. In a telehealth consult, there is lots of information I can't see. I can't see your full body and what it's doing.”

On the other hand, telehealth enables patients to see their health professionals from wherever they’re most comfortable — creating new opportunities for Dr Sansom-Daly to connect with patients.

“I’ve had sessions with some of my teenage patients who are dialling in on their smartphones, plonked upon their beds. I can see all the posters of bands and their artwork behind them on their walls and their face is filling much more of a screen,” she adds.

“In a regular consultation, I wouldn't be that close up to their face.”

This forces health professionals to think beyond the clinical environment to the patient's home circumstances.

“For young people with really tricky family situations and home situations, home doesn't necessarily feel safe and confidential.”

Dr Sansom-Daly says patients should also be thinking about getting the best out of a conversation with their clinician.

“I always encourage patients or clients to ask questions. Feel free to ask about how's this going to work today? What happens if one of us drops out? For the patient it's really important that you are somewhere you feel comfortable and feel that you're not going to be disturbed.”

Practitioners and patients are both learning new ways to create and nurture connections.  Dr Sansom-Daly says her practice had feedback from young people and their families that they were happy with the delivery and connected with their therapist.

“But the interesting thing was when we tracked the therapists, they were a little bit more hesitant to start with. They took a little bit longer over time to warm up to the new modality,” she adds.

This episode was filmed with interviewer Ben Campbell in Adelaide and Dr Ursula Sansom-Daly in Sydney, Australia using Pexip Meetings and video to bring everyone together.

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