New Telehealth Service Delivers Affordable Menopause Relief to Rural Women

A groundbreaking trial is set to commence this month in response to concerns that rural women are not accessing effective treatments for their debilitating menopausal symptoms. A new telehealth service will allow women living in remote areas to speak privately with a doctor via their phone, mobile device or computer.

Women will be offered up-to-date advice to treat menopause symptoms such as:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood disturbances
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sexual problems
  • Urinary issues

The program will be subsidised by a funding grant during its pilot phase and will be delivered by WellFemme, a new telehealth service founded by Dr Kelly Teagle. Dr Teagle is a general practitioner based in Canberra who specialises in women’s health.

“I’m very concerned that many women in rural and remote areas with debilitating menopausal symptoms simply can’t access the help they need,” Dr Teagle said.

“They may live a long way from the nearest GP with no choice regarding which doctor they see, and that doctor may not be experienced or confident in treating menopausal symptoms. There may also be cultural or communication barriers if their GP is from a non-English speaking background. The best situation is where women have a good GP who can confidently manage their menopausal symptoms, but WellFemme is there for all those women who don’t.”

Aside from assisting women who are struggling with menopause, Dr Teagle also wants to help other GPs.

‘I think a lot of GPs struggle with how to manage their menopausal patients and they often don’t have the necessary time. It can be very time consuming to do a thorough assessment of a patient because there are so many different areas that menopause can cause impacts on,’ she said.

‘I really want GPs to see WellFemme as a resource to help support them. I’m here if they would like to contact me for support in managing difficult patients, or they can make a referral through the website.’

Most Australian women reach menopause (their last period) between the ages of 45 and 55, but around 10 percent will be earlier or later than this and about one percent are under 40. The symptoms of menopause can start many years before a woman’s last period and can go on for many years after. Around 80 percent of women will experience symptoms at some point, sometimes quite severely, yet surprisingly few are on effective treatments.

Current evidence suggests that over 350,000 Australian women may be enduring moderate-to-severe hot flushes despite the availability of treatments that are now proven to be safe and effective. Dr Teagle believes that this is due to a combination of misinformation and a lack of access to responsive health services.

“Even among some doctors there is still a lingering belief that hormonal treatment is unsafe, despite overwhelming evidence that it is safe and beneficial for the majority of perimenopausal women,” Dr Teagle said. “When women are given access to correct information and supportive health services, they get better.”

A 45-minute WellFemme consultation includes a comprehensive medical and lifestyle assessment, treatment recommendations and a written report for clients to share with their GP. The service uses secure internet technology that allows women to visit an expert menopause doctor “face to face” without ever leaving home. Those without reliable internet can also use the service by phone.

“There is no Medicare rebate for services like WellFemme yet… we’re working on that,” said Dr Teagle. “The good news is that WellFemme has received a funding grant which will make consultations more affordable during our pilot phase.”

Women will be offered a discounted consultation in return for completing a quick online questionnaire, which will be repeated three and twelve months later. Women can still access WellFemme’s services without being part of the trial however. Research will be used to show the Federal Government the importance of specialised telehealth services to women in rural and remote areas.

Dr Teagle is optimistic about the future of telehealth in the bush. “I’m so excited to be able to offer this service to perimenopausal women who feel like they have no decent treatment options,” she said.

“Hopefully WellFemme will be the trailblazer for a wider range of future telehealth services and help bring some much-needed healthcare equity to Australians in rural and remote areas.”

Click here to learn more about WellFemme.

Aged Care Disaster Management Planning

Strategic Priority Area: One team

North Coast is identified as the region most likely to be impacted by climate change in Australia and also forecasted greatest growth in those 65+.

Healthy North Coast takes a lead role in ensuring the older population and the sector that supports them are prepared for, can respond to and recover from disasters and other emergencies.

We have led eight regional disaster management capacity building workshops, bringing together SES, community organisations and the aged care sector.

We have also developed disaster preparedness tip sheets for both residential and community aged care providers.

Voluntary Assisted Dying

Strategic Priority Area: One team

In May 2022, the NSW Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2022. Effective from Tuesday, 28 November 2023, eligible people have the choice to access voluntary assisted dying. 

Healthy North Coast has developed a webpage for both health professionals and consumers, with links to available information and resources.

Living with Dementia resources

Strategic Priority Area: No one is left behind

Healthy North Coast has worked with people living with dementia, their families and local service providers to develop an information booklet that will help them connect with local and national supports along their journey.

The booklet includes commonly asked questions for people to ask their GP and/or specialist.

The resource is available in digital and printed copies, with more than 5,000 distributed across the region. An e-version is available to clinicians via the Dementia and Cognitive Impairment HealthPathway.

Deteriorating Resident Triage Tool Pilot

Strategic Priority Area: One team

The Deteriorating Resident Response Tool (DRRT) has been developed to guide RN’s in Residential Aged Care homes (RACHs) to better understand, anticipate and make clinical decisions responding to the deteriorating health of residents.

The objective of the DRRT is to give RACH staff clear information to triage and provide appropriate care for a range of residents’ health conditions, and, in turn, prevent unnecessary presentations to ED.

The tool has been designed together with a specialist geriatrician, consulting with stakeholders such as Residential Aged Care Managers, NSW Ambulance, GPs, and experts from Mid and North Coast LHDs.

The pilot commences in March with four participating RACHs. Evaluation measures will include effectiveness in building RN confidence and reported reduction in unnecessary hospitalisations. Findings will inform a future planned, region-wide implementation.

North Coast Care Finders Program

Strategic Priority Area: No one is left behind

The Care Finders program is a free region-wide service to support vulnerable older people who have no-one else to help them, to learn about, apply for and set up support services.

Care finders can help people understand what aged care services are available, set up an assessment, and find and choose services. They also help people with access to other supports in the community, both accessing services for the first time and changing or finding new services and supports.

On the North Coast, Healthy North Coast has commissioned four organisations to provide this important service: EACH, Carexcell, Lifetime Connect and Footprints.

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Psychological services in residential aged care homes

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Healthy North Coast commissions two service providers to deliver psychological therapies and supports for older people with, or at risk of developing, a mental illness and who are living in residential aged care homes (RACHs).

The aim of the program is to both provide direct support to residents and their families and carers, as well as upskill the RACH workforce to respond to the needs of residents presenting with mental health concerns.

Social prescribing (Healthy Me Healthy Community)

Strategic Priority Area: Securing a Healthier Future

Delivered by Feros Care, the Healthy Me, Healthy Community program aims to build individual and community connections to reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing in Port Macquarie.

The program helps people to connect with community, activities, supports and services that address their broader social determinants of health, as an alternative or supplement to a clinical approach.

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Digital Health in Residential Aged Care

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Timely access to primary health care professionals, whether through face-to-face consultation or telehealth, is recognised as an issue for many Residential Aged Care Homes (RACHs), that in some cases can lead to potentially preventable hospitalisations. RACHs require adequate telehealth facilities to support access to virtual consultations for their residents.

Project goals

  • Assist participating RACHs to have appropriate telehealth facilities and equipment to enable their residents to virtually consult when needed with their primary health care professionals, specialists and other clinicians. 
  • Provide training to participating RACH staff to support them to have the capabilities to assist their residents in accessing virtual consultation services.
  • Encourage increased use of My Health Record by RACHs, to improve the availability and secure transfer of resident’s health care information between RACHs, primary care and acute care settings.
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Greater Choice at Home Palliative Care Program

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Aims to provide people who have life limiting conditions the opportunity to exercise choice and receive high quality care at home, harnessing improved and better coordinated supports and services that meet their individual needs.

Program objectives:

  • Improve access to palliative care at home and support end-of-life care systems and services (in primary health care and community care)
  • To enable the right care at the right time and in the right place (to reduce unnecessary hospitalisation)
  • Generate and use data to support continuous improvement of services across sectors
  • Use available technologies to support flexible and responsive palliative care at home, including in the after-hours.

These objectives will contribute to achieving the following intended overarching outcomes of:

  • Improved capacity and responsiveness of services to meet local needs and priorities
  • Improved patient access to quality palliative care services in the home
  • Improved coordination of care for patients across health care providers and integration of palliative care services in their region.

Education & training funding elibility

Funding is open to all primary care providers within disaster affected communities across the Healthy North Coast footprint.

Workforce Locum support and R&R funding criteria

  • Available to primary care services in disaster impacted communities within the Healthy North Coast footprint.
  • Available to support short-term workforce coverage, allowing clinicians to rest and recover.
  • Workforce-support funding in total is capped for each site, over a 12-month period:
    • $10k for GPs and/or
    • $5K for nursing and/or
    • $5k administration support and/or
    • $5K allied/pharmacy and other.
  • Funding is not to be used to fill gaps in staffing that have not been able to recruit to and not to replace existing staff.
  • Healthy North Coast will assess requirements and approve available funding directly with the service requesting support.
  • Priority will be given to sites that have immediate, short-term workforce support needs.
  • Requests will be reviewed and supported on a case-by-case basis.
  • Program funding administered via RCTI Agreement (Recipient Created Tax Invoice) to be paid monthly, or on completion of the placement (whichever comes first).
  • Practices will be required to complete a request for payment form monthly, or on completion of the placement (whichever occurs first).

Wellbeing Flexible Funding Criteria & Eligibility

  • Open to all primary care providers within disaster affected communities across the Healthy North Coast footprint.
  • Activity must be purposeful, with the aim of increasing the wellbeing of your team.
  • Requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, with funding allocated based on team size.*
  • Following approval by Healthy North Coast, funding will be administered via RCTI Agreement (Recipient Created Tax Invoice) upon providing proof of expenses.
  • Funding cannot be used for the purchase of alcohol, or any other goods or services where the vendor cannot quote their Australian Business Number.
  • Planned activities must occur prior to 30th June 2024.
  • Funding will not be available for retrospective activities.
*Team Size
(Total staff and contractors)
Funding Available
Small (1-5)$500-$1500
Medium (6-20)$1500-$4000
Large (>20)$4000-$5000