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How do we deliver a specialised service across the entire state of Queensland?
The Spinal Outreach Team has overcome this significant challenge by introducing their specialist spinal cord injury rehabilitation team to the patients before they leave the hospital and then simply providing that support whenever and wherever it is needed.
Manager of the Spinal Outreach Team (SPOT) based at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Kiley Pershouse, said that people want to know who they can contact and that they will get a reliable response.
“The advent of technology and the proliferation of video chats and online consultations during COVID has cemented the on-demand model as the easiest way to engage with our service because we can’t be in everybody’s town when they need us,” Kiley said.
“People phone us or email us with that burning question. We can respond more conveniently for both them and us to resolve the issue in a timely way rather than waiting for the wheels of the appointment cycle to turn.”
The visionary team in SPOT have always been early adopters. They have used video conferencing for years, particularly with facilities across the state who call on their expertise to manage a regional or remote patient with a spinal cord injury.
“We have pushed ahead with technology use over the past couple of years. At the same time, people have become more comfortable with video calls, facetime, and video consults which has paved the way for us to embrace this format more than we did a few years ago.”
While technology has allowed the team to overcome the tyranny of distance created by the geographical size of Queensland, Kiley said it is the value of their team as a solutions provider for this life-long cohort of former patients that is their greatest strength.
“People with a spinal cord injury may encounter a unique issue that they need help with; but for the most part, many people living in the community will encounter the same types of problems with their equipment, their home set-up, their skin integrity, and their independence,” she said.
“The strategies we use for connecting with people in regional or remote areas can be just as useful for people living in the cities. Quite frankly for anyone living with a spinal injury, it is difficult enough to get a maxi taxi just a few suburbs over to see a health professional, so it makes sense to use email or video chat to reduce the need for an in-hospital visit.”
SPOT has been recently been contacted by the Rick Hansen institute in British Columbia (BC), one of the leading SCI research centres in Canada seeking advice on how their metropolitan based rehabilitation service can ensure their support is getting to people wherever they are living across the breadth of BC. Kiley says the model of care used by SPOT provides that support along somebody’s lifetime of living with a SCI. The community model for all-of-life support is unique to our knowledge.
“We have always had a problem-based service. Whenever people are having a problem, they know they can contact us and we will work with them to solve that problem,” Kiley said. “It is this flexibility that has inspired other services to reach out to us for guidance.
“We still see people in their home or at their local hospital when we need to, which is an essential part of our service, but SPOT on-demand has become our primary mode of working with former patients with a spinal cord injury who are living independently in the community.”