A FORMER Bendigo doctor has started what is believed to be the only entirely online specialist paediatrics clinic devoted to central Victoria.
Janaka Tennakoon has launched the new site complete with video consulting from a purpose-built telehealth office space at his home that features a high-quality camera and lighting.
"I wanted people not to feel like they were far away during consultations. They might be a few minutes drive away or a few hours but it feels like a consulting room," he said.
Dr Tennakoon has begun his new after-hours clinic at a time when waiting lists for specialist health services are still long.
A number of his Bendigo patients have reported several months wait for consultations, which has encouraged him to think about alternatives to face-to-face consultations.
Recent analysis from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows sweeping shifts away from face-to-face consultations at the start of the pandemic.
"For example, in April 2020, following the introduction of the new telehealth MBS (medicare benefits schedule) items, 36 per cent of GP consultations were delivered by telephone or video conference, while in April 2019, all recorded consultations were delivered face-to-face," the group found.
However, Dr Tennakoon said that COVID-19 was not the only factor influencing his move into online consultations.
"Even without that, the field would have changed over the next 10 years," he said.
Dr Tennakoon said he wanted to serve the people voting with their feet and demanding services from their own home, especially for children with behavioural challenges and who do not feel comfortable in new environments.
"I've only been practicing from here (the telehealth office) for several weeks but the reaction from families has been very promising. The families I have seen have said they strongly recommended it."
Dr Tennakoon plans to run his bulk-bill service after 5pm and on Saturdays to make it as easy as possible for people to access services when convenient for them.
He said the platforms he was using were secure and had good reputations among medical professionals.
Dr Tennakoon has begun his new website and consultancy after gaining extensive experience in general paediatrics.
He specialises in neonatology as well as neurodevelopmental and behavioural disorders and is qualified to perform autism spectrum disorder assessments.
Dr Tennakoon has practiced medicine in Bendigo and Mildura, where he has taught and mentored a new generation of the region's healthcare professionals.
"It's where I practiced for over 10 years. I know what services are available and I know what people need in terms of socio-economic backgrounds," he said.
All would help him make sure people had the best care available at a time of waiting lists for many key services, Dr Tennakoon said.
He is also offering electronic scripts, a GP call-back service and GP education sessions.
Dr Tennakoon said he will get back patients within two working days of them contacting him and that people would be able to login and change appointment bookings at their convenience.
To find out more about his services or to book an appointment, jump online and visit Dr Tennakoon's website www.onlinepaediatricclinic.com.au