Northern Health is the first public health service in Australia to use a newly-developed digital examination tool that will enable better access to specialist assessment for patients, from their own home.

A small, portable hand-held device – developed by telehealth company TytoCare – includes a comprehensive exam kit, featuring a digital stethoscope for heart and lung examinations, a thermometer, and a tongue depressor to examine throat and tonsils.

The device is easily paired with a user-friendly app and clinician dashboard to become a complete telehealth platform for sharing exam data and conducting live video exams.

Northern Health’s head of heart failure unit Associate Professor Gautam Vaddadi said while heart failure was a life-long chronic illness that often caused patients to be repeatedly admitted to hospital, Northern Health had developed an innovative program using the device that delivered hospital-level care for patients with heart failure, in their own home.

“This tool is critical for assessing fluid on the lungs, which is a common problem that affects patients with heart failure,” he said.

“This technology will allow us to make the best possible medical decisions when treating our heart failure patients at home.”

Chief health outcomes officer of clinical leadership, effectiveness and outcomes Dr Katharine See said TytoCare played an integral role in her team’s mission to implement new interventions and technologies that would facilitate better health outcomes for the community.

“TytoCare is already being used widely and successfully internationally, with encouraging results,” she said.

“We wanted to bring these same technologies to the Australian healthcare setting. The device is currently being piloted in our heart failure virtual ward, and will support the team to deliver remote healthcare where appropriate.

“We hope this will benefit patients by reducing the need to be cared for in hospital and provide faster access to their clinical team virtually.

“Physical examination has not previously been possible via telehealth for specialists and nurse practitioners. Now, they are able to hear the heart and lung sounds in real-time, and make clinical decisions using the results of the virtual examination, as well as the observations from the Hospital In The Home nursing staff.”

Dr See said the introduction and implementation of new technologies, including the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department and Remote Patient Monitoring, were exciting opportunities for Northern Health to provide and support healthcare for individuals.

“As a remote digital solution, these tools increase the value of consultation for both patients and clinicians by allowing high quality remote examination, while also optimising patient flow and access to care,” she said.

“One of the challenges of providing high quality virtual care is the inability to effectively examine patients. We’re bridging that key gap, allowing patients to receive equivalent care from the comfort of their home.”