Experts are working on ‘virtual hospital’ treatment methods.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has launched ‘rpavirtual: a new way of caring’.

“Established as the first virtual hospital in NSW, rpavirtual was launched in early 2020 as a sustainable solution to increasing demand for healthcare in Sydney - and then the COVID-19 crisis hit,” says RPA Virtual Hospital General Manager Miranda Shaw.

“Expanding on existing digital infrastructure and workforce, rpavirtual was able to implement its COVID-19 model of care in just six days.

“Within 7 months our workforce has grown from six nurses, to a multidisciplinary service of over 50 medical, nursing and allied health teams.

“One of the most remarkable features of rpavirtual has been its ability to pivot to deliver hospital type monitoring in the community using digital innovations, underpinned by robust clinical models of care.

“Video consults, remote monitoring technologies, escalation pathways and patient access to the Virtual Care Centre 24/7 allows our care teams to identify patient deterioration in a timely manner.

“Only 6 per cent of rpavirtual patients who have tested positive for COVID have required hospital admission, compared to NSW hospitalisation rates of 10 per cent.

“There is also the issue of COVID-19 negative patients in quarantine who have needed complex clinical care. In the absence of rpavirtual, these patients would have required hospital presentation and admission.

“This model of virtual care has the potential to cut the number of unnecessary Emergency Department presentations, reduce a patient’s length of stay in hospital, and has the ability to empower patients, especially those with chronic illness, to lead a better quality of life,” said Ms Shaw.

“The experience of a rapidly expanding virtual health service has been eye-opening for many, including for rpavirtual's Information and Communication services, who have played a critical role in the hospital’s patient-centred, technology-enabled design.”

Ms Verhoeven said patients accept and respond well to comprehensive, supportive care delivered though virtual technologies.

She suggests the positive benefits experienced through rpavirtual should be considered by governments in the development of virtual care strategies more broadly.