Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District

In March 2021, we sat down with Ali to discuss her experiences with virtual care and how they have impacted her overall experience with the NSW Health system.


“As a person living in regional Australia with complex, permanent conditions, I spend a lot of time in hospitals and clinics, with whole days gone travelling to and from appointments. There are lots of unavoidable delays and rescheduling.

To be able to have some of my care done virtually is really awesome. The future of virtual care is pretty exciting!”


Can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Ali. I am 43 years old and I have a 21-year-old spinal cord injury. I also have a blood disorder called Von Willebrands Disorder and I suffer from trauma related panic and anxiety.

I live in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region, approximately 45 minutes from Nowra. I am a consumer advisor for my local and state hospitals and participate in these meetings via videoconferencing.

What does your care involve?

I am a patient at the Spinal Outpatients Clinic at Shoalhaven Hospital. I see my specialist, Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC), Physiotherapist, Dietician and Occupational Therapist at this clinic. I see my haematologist through the IML clinic. I have regular MRIs and ultrasounds to monitor my spinal syrinx, as well as my kidneys and bladder.

I have regular General Practitioner (GP) appointments and am frequently visiting my local pathology centre and pharmacy.

I also have regular psychology sessions to support my mental health.

What parts of your care are delivered virtually?

My psychology appointments are via Skype. My psychologist says that she reads my body language and my expressions as much as she listens to what I’m saying. I find it more engaging than just speaking to someone on the phone because you know the other person is present. I particularly like having the option to attend my psychology appointments from my home – it’s my safe place.

Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of my GP appointments have been just over the phone. My GP is able to fax my results to my specialists and pathology requests are sent straight to my local collection centre. These results are shared with my haematologist straight away.

My wonderful CNC is always available by phone and is happy to do home visits if need be.

I would have missed so many important appointments and meetings last year if I didn’t have the option of telehealth and videoconferencing.

What do you like about receiving your care virtually? Can you describe how it’s helped you?

Before virtual care was offered, I was reliant on my support work to take me to and from appointments. Living in a regional area meant I could spend whole days travelling to one specialist appointment. Sometimes it would mean overnight stays. Having the option to attend my appointments via videoconferencing or speaking to my healthcare professional over the phone has been excellent.
It has also helped me to feel more independent.

I really feel that because I am able to still participate in all of this preventative care in a virtual way, I have stayed safe and well.

Have you experienced any issues with receiving your care virtually/over the phone? If so, can you please tell us about them.

All of the technology I have used has been pretty user friendly and intuitive. I was lucky enough to purchase a videoconferencing-ready device through my Assistive Technology funding in my National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan as part of the NDIS COVID-19 strategy. Without that I think a lot of us would have felt isolated.

In saying that, we can’t assume that everyone has the same access to equipment and technology so it’s important that face-to-face is still an option.

Would you recommend telehealth/virtual care to your family and friends? If so, why?

Yes I would. I have had a really positive experience with it. It would be cool to learn more about how spinal rehabilitation uses virtual care. 20 years ago you would receive inpatient support then you would leave hospital. I would love to know how they are using technology to support spinal cord injuries these days.

File Size: 148 kb
Type: Brochure
Date of Publication: 21 April 2021
SHPN: SHPN (SRPB) 210355