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A Hopetoun couple is urging fellow community members to take advantage of the latest communication technology to save time and money with medical treatments.

Hopetoun West farmers John and Coral Webster have both utilised the Telehealth system in the past few months to communicate with medical specialists in Geelong. Telehealth is the name given to describe a consultation with a clinician or medical specialist via a computer generated video link-up.

Mr Webster said he and his wife had saved around $1000 in travel expenses and four days of wages by using the system. Last October, Mrs Webster, who also works in child care, was diagnosed with an iron deficiency.

Hopetoun GP Dr Ahmad Rahim recommended a colonoscopy and referred her to a Geelong specialist. Normally, such a treatment would require three visits to the specialist – an introductory consultation, the colonoscopy and the review consultation.

But Dr Rahim was able to change the two consultation visits to a Telehealth link-up and the Websters’ long car trip became a short drive to his Hopetoun surgery.

Mrs Webster said she was even able to arrange the link-up consultations in her lunch hour.

“It was wonderful because I only had to drive around the corner and I avoided missing any work time,” Mrs Webster said. “What would have been two nine-hour round trips became simple little tasks with no inconvenience whatsoever,” she said.

“Using Telehealth had no effect on the consultations either because it was merely a discussion with the specialist each time. “If he required any medical information, Dr Rahim was close by to assist.”

Mr Webster said it wasn’t just travel time that was saved. “Such a trip basically cuts out two days of work for each of us and costs at least $500 in fuel and accommodation because it’s just not safe to try and do it all in one day,” Mr Webster said.

“That’s also 18 hours that we haven’t spent on the road and not to mention all the parking issues you have when you get there,” he said. “It’s just been a great revelation.”

Mr Webster was also able to take advantage of the Telehealth system soon after, as he had been having trouble with his hands, particularly with his fine motor skills. Mr Webster said his hands would often stiffen with no warning and he was plagued with a burning sensation.

“During Coral’s last Telehealth consultation, Dr Rahim took advantage of the opportunity to get an opinion on the condition of my hands,” Mr Webster said. “Coral’s specialist was then able to refer me to another specialist at Barwon Health and before I knew it I was having tests at his Kardinia House surgery,” he said. “The result at this stage is suspected rheumatoid arthritis which isn’t ideal but the diagnosis came a lot easier than it would have without the Telehealth service.” Mr Webster said the system had been such a game changer for them that Coral’s father Allan Turnbull used Telehealth for his last four consultations.

“Allan is a Parkinson’s sufferer in aged care here at Hopetoun and occasionally he has to visit a specialist in Ballarat and take a care worker with him,” Mr Webster said.

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