Embedding Telehealth through Allied Health Innovation Grants

Miss Clare Daley1, Mr Ashley Young2

1Hunter New England Local Health District, Newcastle, Australia, 2Hunter New England Local Health District, Newcastle, Australia

BACKGROUND: Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) is a large organisation within NSW Health that covers 25 LGAs, including metropolitan, regional and rural sites, and has over 16,000 employees (approximately 1500 Allied Health). For a decade, a key focus of the District has been increasing the utilisation of clinical telehealth to improve access to services for our community and reducing the impact of our large geographical area on our patients and their families. To support this, in 2015 an Allied Health Telehealth Equipment Grants Initiative was developed to encourage clinicians to establish innovative clinical telehealth services.

METHOD: An application process was developed that outlined eligibility criteria and requirements. All Allied Health staff providing direct patient care were encouraged to submit a project that could benefit through the use of desktop and specialised telehealth equipment. The grant process also allowed clinicians to formalise innovative projects, gaining executive support and empowering the clinician.

RESULTS: From 2015 to 2017, 32 allied health clinical telehealth projects were awarded grants. A reporting mechanism ensured there was ongoing accountability to complete the project, and provided an opportunity to gather feedback and learnings, and troubleshoot any issues.Once the application, review and reporting process was established, it was easy to offer grants in subsequent years.The cost of the program has been $85 000 with all equipment purchased through existing approved IT services.

DISCUSSION: These grants greatly increased uptake of telehealth by allied health clinicians in HNELHD, and is one of the key factors in why HNELHD performs over 50% of NSW’s Clinical Telehealth activity. Many projects have been recognised at the District’s annual High Value Health Care Awards. A guide and resources for Allied Health staff introducing a telehealth model of care was developed based on learnings from the projects.


Clare is a Dietitian who has been working in allied health project and management roles for the last 5 years in Hunter New England Local Health District. One of the key initiatives Clare has worked on is increasing the utilisation of clinical telehealth amongst Allied Health staff.

Ashley is a passionate leader in the delivery of equitable and accessible healthcare. He began his career at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney as a histology scientist, after 10 years moving into change management at NSW Health. From there he led statewide reforms in Aboriginal Health, Disability Funding, Emergency Department Access, and Immunisation Services. In 2012, he moved to Newcastle and began the implementation of Clinical Telehealth in Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD). This work saw him awarded Collaborative Leader of the Year for the District, and as a finalist for the Premier’s Award for ‘Making NSW a Better Place to Live’. The service is now delivering over 10,000 appointments annually to patients in their homes, community health centres, GP practices, Aboriginal Medical Services and Aged Care Facilities. Ashley is currently the Director of the Multicultural and Refugee Health Service for HNELHD.

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