People throughout Western Australia can now receive increased support for their chronic respiratory conditions through a new free telehealth support service.

Asthma WA has been commissioned by WA Primary Health Alliance and WA Country Health Services to provide increased support for people with chronic respiratory conditions including asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) through the development of a COVID-19 Respiratory Helpline.  In conjunction with the use of telehealth to provide ongoing education and support, Asthma WA is helping people stay well in the community, while also encouraging them to re-connect with their GP.

Asthma WA’s Respiratory Health Team, comprising of nurses and educators, are making calls to people known to the organisation, as well as receiving calls from the public. The experienced team are ‘checking in’ to see how people are managing, answering any questions and concerns they may have relating to their condition and providing advice on COVID-19 and the current flu season.

In addition, the team at Asthma WA are working closely with GP’s and other health providers to support their chronic respiratory patients  and encourage people to come back to their GP’s surgery for check-ups and medication reviews, flu vaccinations and other health promotion activities aimed at keeping clients well in the community

Since April, more than 300 contacts have been made with people with asthma and/or COPD across the community.  Asthma WA’s Registered Nurse Kate is one of their staff working within GP practices to conduct ‘Health Check’ calls to their respiratory patients in order to alleviate patient concerns and decrease anxiety.

Kate is encouraging all patients to keep in regular contact with their GP. “During COVID-19 our patients are feeling very isolated. It is really important to us that we make contact with vulnerable patients to reassure them and address their health concerns.”

“Patients who are self-isolating to protect themselves during COVID-19 still need help to manage their conditions at home and really benefit from a one-on-one conversation to discuss any issue they may be having in relation to their health.”

“We certainly have noticed an increased anxiety in patients, specifically those who need to see their GP for either a review or discuss their flu vaccination but were worried they may increase their risk of contracting COVID-19. We have been able to reassure them of both the importance of their vaccinations as well as the availability of Telehealth services via their GP, and at the same time discuss how they were managing at home.”

Asthma WA are also working with community groups to ensure this support is targeting the vulnerable and at-risk members of our population. Through collaboration with the Street Doctor Program run by 360 Health and Community, Asthma WA’s Cultural Services Coordinator Mel has also been delivering ‘Health Check’ calls to respiratory clients. “It’s really crucial that Street Doctor’s vulnerable patients know that we will continue to make ourselves available for them and that we are being proactive in their care,” says Mel.

Through these calls, many clients subsequently booked in for additional education with our Respiratory Health Team, and several were referred for full Lung Function Testing.  This service ensures that homeless and vulnerable clients, are not falling through the gaps.”

Any GP or health service who would like our assistance and support with their respiratory patients should contact Jenny Howson, General Manager, Health Services, on 9289 3600 to participate in this free program.  People with asthma and COPD can simply Freecall 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to talk to a member of the Asthma WA Respiratory Team.

Media enquiries: Please call Freya Barr, Marketing and Communications Manager for Asthma WA on 0408 927 727.

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