News

Simone shines

By Jamie Lowe

Living in rural Australia can be isolating, but it does not necessarily mean you are disconnected from your community and the world.

That is the premise Simone Dudley built on when she started delivering health services through video conferencing.

The Deniliquin occupational therapist’s efforts in providing psychology, speech occupational and physiotherapy services via telehealth has been recognised as a game changer, earning Mrs Dudley a nomination for The Weekly Times Shine Awards.

The awards celebrate rural women who make a real difference to their communities, businesses and industries.

Starting her journey with business partner Sue Cameron five years ago, Therapy Connect has now become a model for other telehealth operators, and particularly now during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Dudley said her nomination for the Shine Award came as a surprise.

‘‘I didn’t know I was being nominated at all,’’ she said.

‘‘I was nominated by my friend in Queensland, Megan Hosken, who is a GP.

‘‘I’m extremely proud to be nominated, I think anything that promotes women in country Australia being innovative and striving for success is such a great thing.”

Mrs Dudley knew the downsides of isolation well before Coronavirus lockdown.

She would often commute more than 130km from her home at Cornalla East to work with a paediatric autism assessment group.

It was during this time that she identified the need for increased remote access to services.

‘‘Not only did we have this long wait list for giving assessments, but people were travelling hours to get to us. By the time the families would arrive, everybody was exhausted,’’ she said.

‘‘Sue and myself started Therapy Connect five years ago to provide a remote service, and to our surprise the business has grown rapidly.

‘‘I could see the potential of using technology was huge; it could decrease waiting lists, increase accessibility and increase frequency.

‘‘This, in turn, gives consumers voice and control over how they access the services they need and when they need them.

‘‘We have a team of about 40 practitioners who are spread out across the country, and they can do the work they like when it suits them.

‘‘We also have the ability to match the clients’ needs with various therapists who may specialise in certain areas.

‘‘We are known across the sector for our telehealth work and have even been called upon to do more education and training for others in the health sector.

‘‘Our goal was always to deliver high quality service where clients could access these services from home.

‘‘If it wasn’t for each other, Sue and myself would not have achieved what we have already achieved.’’

Six Shine Awards winners will be announced on November 18.  For details, or to nominate, go to www.shineawards.com.au.