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Key messages

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way we deliver clinical care – more and more we are connecting with healthcare providers by phone or video.

While helpful in managing community health risks during the pandemic, it’s also proved convenient for some, reducing travel and saving time away from home, work and school.

For others, it allows for family members, carers or other health practitioners to attend an appointment they may not have been able to.

To help telehealth continue as an option in clinical care, we’ve developed a new tool to help clinicians and consumer decide together when it is a safe and effective option for care.

On this page

    Our telehealth decision tool is designed to guide clinicians to make decisions in partnership with consumers about using telehealth (video or telephone) in their clinical care.

    The decision to use telehealth practice remains with the clinician and the consumer receiving care.

    Whether you are new to telehealth or have used it over recent months, this tool will help you support consumer choice and improved care and prompts you to consider your patient’s:

    • condition and mobility
    • privacy and safety
    • support networks
    • comfort level
    • technical know how.

    Guiding principles for using telehealth

    • Telehealth is not intended to replace face-to-face care in all circumstances. Instead, it provides an alternative method to provide safe, appropriate and accessible clinical care.
    • Video calls should be used where possible to support clinician/patient interaction and assessment.
    • Clinicians and those who support appointment scheduling should ensure the consumer understands, agrees to and is comfortable with telehealth as part of their care.
    • A consumer may need support (e.g. with communication or technology) to participate in a telehealth appointment. Support is best provided by a clinician or family member or carer, located with the consumer.
    • Clinicians are encouraged to consider the appropriateness of using telehealth in circumstances where a person may require face-to-face support – for example, in giving a diagnosis for a serious disease or when a physical examination is required and there are no supports available in their location.
    • Standard practices around consent and patient identification checks should be completed for telehealth practice. Confirming the person’s location may also support privacy checks and support escalation in the event of an incident.
    • Consider privacy and confidentiality in telehealth:
      • Ensure the person is in a private and safe place and they have consented to others being present such as their carers, family members or other clinicians.
      • Have a pre-planned signal/phrase that may indicate the person is not safe.
      • Take measures to reduce the possibility of others not in view listening in to the conversation.
    • Ensure you are familiar with your agency’s overarching policies, procedures and local escalation processes when using telehealth.
    • Consider processes in the case of a clinical or environmental incident including how to escalate to local or internal supports.

    This decision tool was developed in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and clinical experts.


    Get in touch

    Clinical Guidance Team
    Safer Care Victoria

    Version history

    First published: November 2020
    Last reviewed: N/A
    Due for review: November 2023

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