A new age of rehabilitation: experiences of an Occupational Therapy led telehealth review clinic

Ms Debra Phillips1, Miss Lauren Matheson1, Dr  Tilley Pain1,2, Dr Gail Kingston1,2

1The Townsville Hospital, Townsville, Australia, 2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia



Rural and remote children post burn injuries are geographically disadvantaged compared to their regional and metropolitan counterparts. Studies have shown rural and remote children are more likely to have complications following a burn injury thereby increasing the disadvantage. Specialist services for burn rehabilitation are located in tertiary hospitals and rarely available in rural and remote areas.

The North Queensland Paediatric Burns Service (NQBPS) at the Townsville Hospital established the Occupational Therapy Led Paediatric Burns Telehealth Clinic (OTPBTC) to reduce rural disadvantage. In our model, the occupational therapist takes the responsibility of monitoring children undergoing active burn rehabilitation rather than a Paediatric Surgeon. Clinical indicators have been written as part of the new model of care to guide the re-engagement of the surgeon when a review is indicated.


The aim of this research was to gain an understanding of the experiences had by families and clinicians utilising the OTPBTC.


This qualitative research was undertaken to explore family’s and clinician’s experience of OTPBTC. Families and rural clinicians involved in telehealth reviews were purposefully selected for interview.


Four major themes were derived through thematic analysis: continuity of care; family centred care; technology; and building of rural capacity.


Perspectives obtained from this study confirm the benefits of a telehealth for rural and remote children post burn injury.  It demonstrates that this telehealth model provides quality patient centred care and expert clinical advice within local communities. This telehealth model can be translated to other areas of health care across Australia.


Debra is a senior Occupational Therapist at The Townsville Hospital in North Queensland.  She has over 15 years experiencing in providing rehabilitation to children post burn injury living in regional, remote and very remote communities.  The Occupational Therapy Led telehealth review clinic, developed in conjunction with the Paediatric Surgeons at The Townsville Hospital,  was awarded the 2019 Queensland Health Excellence Award for delivering health care.

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