Virtual care helps kids avoid ED

Virtual care helps kids avoid ED

Three-month-old baby sitting on mum's lap

Virtual care is helping to keep children at home, and out of hospital, with referrals to the virtualKIDS service more than doubling this year. 

Since launching, the virtualKIDS urgent care team has assessed 7000 children, with more than half of these assessments occurring after the service expanded statewide in January.

The virtualKIDS Urgent Care Service, delivered by Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) and Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) in collaboration with healthdirect, is Australia’s first paediatric-specific virtual healthcare service. 

The service provides video consultations for children, and their families, around NSW with non-life-threatening health concerns, like three-month-old Serenity.

As a first-time mum, Courtenay says the virtualKIDS service has been invaluable, already providing support on two occasions and helping Serenity avoid a trip to the Emergency Department.

Courtenay holding Serenity in her arms

"Being able to have Serenity seen via telehealth and to talk through my concerns with a paediatric nurse was so helpful," Courtenay said.

"The last place you want to be is in the Emergency Department so to be able to receive that same level of care and support from the comfort of your own home is just fantastic."

Serenity was referred to the service for the first time at five weeks old after she was struggling to feed, and then again this month after experiencing some vomiting episodes. 

Nine out of 10 referrals are under the age of five and like Serenity, present with illnesses such as fever, vomiting, poor feeding, or respiratory infections.

"Through video consultations, our skilled paediatric nurses can visually assess each child, offer tailored advice, and provide recommendations—all from the comfort of their home," Dr Jagdev Singh, Medical Lead of the virtualKIDS service, said.

"More importantly, the technology enables us to offer this service to children in every corner of our state, regardless of where they live."

The virtualKIDS service has been able to keep two out of three children at home, helping them to not only avoid hospital but also save thousands of kilometres in travel while reducing SCHN's carbon footprint.

virtualKIDS team with Health Minister, Ryan Park and family, Courtenay and Serenity

NSW Minister for Health, Ryan Park, commended the virtualKIDS service, and the impact it was having for patients and families.

“Not only are we seeing virtual care becoming a more natural part of healthcare, but more importantly, we are also seeing high rates of satisfaction and confidence among patients," Minister Park said.

“Virtual care means that people with non-life threatening conditions don’t need to wait in an emergency department.”

For non-life-threatening health concerns, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. The healthdirect nurse will help decide if virtualKIDS is the right path for you depending on your situation. 

In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000).