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New “Fast Track” Referral & Consultation Service for rapid Neurosurgery appointments

It is generally accepted that you have to wait a long time to see a medical specialist. At the very least it can take many weeks or even months for an appointment, and I have even heard of some instances where people have waited years to see a surgeon. Waiting can cause anxiety, can lead to missed work or study, can result in ongoing and unnecessary pain, and in some instances waiting to receive treatment can lead to a worse overall outcome compared with if your condition was seen to and addressed at the earliest possible time. But what if there was a way for you to have your consultation earlier? And what if you could do this from the comfort of your own home or the convenience of your place of work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our lives in ways we didn’t think possible only a few short years ago. One of the significant advances has been in telemedicine and video conferencing, particularly with programs such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. During times of lockdown and isolation the only way I could consult with patients was via telephone calls or video conferencing, and although I have found that these are not a substitute for a traditional face-to-face consultation they are still excellent forms of communication to identify urgent issues and to help initiate treatment, with one great advantage being the speed with which therapy can commence. Based on a rise in the number of patients being referred to me with high priority problems and my new skills in telemedicine I decided to launch a new “Fast Track” Referral & Consultation Service, with the specific goal to improve clinical outcomes for my patients by expediting their treatment.

How can I have a “Fast Track” consultation?

The new “Fast Track” system is automatic. I read every single patient referral letter sent to me, and based on my interpretation of what your referring doctor has written about your condition and your symptoms and my review of your available scans will determine whether or not I offer you a “Fast Track” appointment. To give you an idea, some conditions that I would consider appropriate for a “Fast Track” include:

· A newly diagnosed malignant brain tumour that needs urgent lifesaving surgery;

· Intractable sciatica pain from a large lumbar disc prolapse;

· Arm weakness from nerve compression in the cervical spine;

· Leg weakness or bladder dysfunction from nerve compression in the lumbar spine

If I triage your referral for “Fast Track” you will be contacted by my secretary and be offered a telehealth consultation, by Zoom if you have access to this program, or by telephone if you do not. If you are offered a “Fast Track” consultation but would still prefer to wait to see me in person that is completely fine, and in that instance we will try and have you seen as quickly as possible, however it will always be faster via “Fast Track” when compared with a face-to-face appointment. Sometimes you may still need a face-to-face follow up consultation at which point a physical examination can be performed and your response to any initial treatment can be assessed. Other times you may be offered urgent surgery for your condition but only if I think this is appropriate and so long as you agree with this and are comfortable with it. Not all “Fast Track” patients will need surgery but many will, and this will be discussed with you at the time of your initial consultation. You are allowed to have a support person with you for your telehealth consultation and in fact I encourage this when possible. You are also allowed to ask as many questions as you like, and at the end of the consultation I will explain what treatment I recommend and why, and what follow up arrangements are required. Finally your referring General Practitioner will receive a letter from me explaining the details of the consultation and my management plan.

If you haven’t been offered a “Fast Track” consultation but would still like to have a telehealth appointment that is quite alright; many of my patients come from country South Australia and even from interstate and telehealth is preferrable for long distance and travel reasons. And if you haven’t been offered a “Fast Track” but you still think your condition is urgent please contact us directly on (08) 7127 2359 or, in many instances I will be able to call you back to discuss your case with you. We look forward to providing a positive Neurosurgery experience to the greater South Australian community, thank you for helping us improve our service to you.

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