GP’s telehealth service to focus on rural women’s health

Matt Woodley

8/03/2019 4:10:02 PM

Canberra-based GP Dr Kelly Teagle wants the newly-launched WellFemme program to be a resource for her medical colleagues, as well as patients.

Dr Kelly Teagle wants to help the hundreds of thousands of women not having their menopause symptoms effectively treated.
Dr Kelly Teagle wants to help the hundreds of thousands of women not having their menopause symptoms effectively treated.

As part of the service’s launch, WellFemme is offering subsidised telehealth care, via computers, smartphones and tablets, to rural women who have been unable to access effective treatments for menopause symptoms.
The program’s website also hosts up-to-date advice to treat symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood disturbances, muscle aches and pains, sexual problems and urinary issues.
Dr Teagle told newsGP she started the service after encountering large amounts of misinformation related to treating menopause in her role as a GP focusing on women’s health.
‘There are a lot of women who have great GPs who love treating their menopause symptoms and are very competent at that, but for the women who don’t have that kind of access it’s really important that they have choices,’ Dr Teagle said.
‘It can be a very confusing area … a study by Monash University found there were about 385,000 women in Australia who were suffering from moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms [hot flushes] that weren’t being treated effectively.
‘That made me think that if women in the city are struggling to get good information and treatment then there must be many women living in rural and remote areas who are really struggling.’
One of the obstacles Dr Teagle is trying to overcome is a lack of GP access to Medicare rebates for telehealth services, which are currently restricted to specialists.
However, WellFemme has attracted the support of an unrestricted commercial funding grant that is allowing it to offer discounted services to women in rural areas in return for completing an online questionnaire, which will be repeated after three and 12 months.
‘To get the ball rolling with WellFemme and to find out how these services can be implemented effectively in rural areas I’m conducting a study. Women who participate in the study receive half price consultations, so it will be like they’re getting a Medicare rebate essentially,’ Dr Teagle said.
‘WellFemme’s pilot study will gather data to present to government  demonstrating that the service is valuable for women in the bush, but it’s not going to be sustainable unless Medicare rebates are expanded to include services like these which are provided by GPs.’
The services are not restricted to trial participants and any woman with menopausal symptoms can book a consultation.
‘Menopause consultations are ideal for telehealth delivery, because you really don’t need to examine the patient in most cases; if there is a need for that it’s a great opportunity to get them to reconnect with their usual GP,’ Dr Teagle said.
‘Even in the city there seems to be a lot of women who are receiving misinformation about the safety of different menopause treatments.’
It’s because of this seemingly widespread confusion that, aside from assisting women who are struggling with menopause, Dr Teagle also wants to help other GPs.
‘I think a lot of GPs are confused about how to best manage their menopausal patients and they often don’t have the time for it. It can be very time consuming because there are so many different areas of a woman’s health impacted by menopause,’ she said.
‘I really want GPs to see WellFemme as a resource to help support them ... they’re welcome to contact me to discuss their complex patients.’
GPs can contact Dr Teagle via

menopause telehealth women's health

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