Live Virtual Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2020

Telehealth and Cancer Genetic Counselling, the Queensland Experience (#114)

Camron Ebzery 1 , Karen Crowe 1 , Helen Mar Fan 1 , Rachel Susman 1 , Julie Mcgaughran 1
  1. Genetic Health Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia

Background: Genetic Health Queensland provides genetic counselling via a hub and spoke model with its head office located in the state’s capital, Brisbane. Although there are a number of regional clinics available outside of Brisbane, Queensland’s dispersed population often results in patients travelling significant distances to attend face-to-face consultations. The inconvenience, cost and inequity of such travel has been well documented1.

In addition to geographical barriers, another challenge faced by Genetic Health Queensland is the continual increase in referrals for cancer genetic counselling. This increase meant that wait-times for routine face-to-face consults in most regional centres exceeded 12 months. In 2015, GHQ received funding for two genetic counsellors to provide cancer genetic counselling via telehealth to patients in regional and remote Queensland. While Genetic Health Queensland had utilised telehealth for many years, these were the first dedicated telehealth genetic counsellor positions. Following 12 months of service delivery, waitlists for regional and remote cancer genetic patients had reduced to 3-8 months. Although these dedicated telehealth positions have improved efficiency of service delivery, less focus has been given to the patients’ satisfaction and acceptance of this model.

Aim: To assess patients’ satisfaction with telehealth cancer genetic counselling provided by Genetic Health Queensland’s dedicated telehealth genetic counselling positions.

Method: Over a twelve-month period, 423 patients attended a new or follow up cancer genetics telehealth consultation. A subset of patients (n=136) were mailed a questionnaire designed to assess their satisfaction with telehealth cancer genetic counselling and to identify any unmet needs or areas of service improvement.

Results: For the majority of patients this was their first experience of telehealth. Patients (>90%) were highly satisfied with telehealth as a model of service delivery and would be happy to be seen by telehealth again. All respondents recognised that telehealth saved them time and money.

  1. 1 Smith, A. C., & Gray, L. C. (2009). Telemedicine across the ages. Med J Aust, 190(1), 15-9.