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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Grant awarded to trial telehealth eye care service in remote Indigenous communities

Date posted: 14 May 2013

A medical imaging system that will help doctors in city hospitals diagnose eye diseases in remote Indigenous communities is among the telehealth projects that will share $20 million in grant money awarded from the Australian Government to trial new methods of health care delivery over the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The CSIRO has been awarded a grant to trial a telehealth eye care service with 900 older Indigenous Australians living in the Torres Strait in Queensland and rural and remote communities in Western Australia (WA) .

The WA Country Health Service says the new telehealth eye care service in the Goldfields-Esperance region will play a major role in the future of patient health care. The technology will allow remote patients to have an instant consultation with a doctor in Perth or Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The health service's regional director for the Goldfields, Geraldine Ennis, says the technology is on par with a sit-down consultation with a GP. 'I think that you just have to change your mindset,' she said. 'I mean they have video conferencing that now goes into people's homes to check that they're okay. They're Skyping into people's homes making sure that people are alright, so I think that this is the way of the future and yes it will replace the conventional consults that we know now and I think that's something we will get used to.'

The head of the emergency department in Kalgoorlie, Matthew Summerscales, says he is surprised by how normal the virtual interactions are. 'There are obviously limitations to it. You can't do examinations like you would do but with technology like the camera you don't necessarily need to be there, you can use the technology to help you...I certainly think it'll help the communities in the Goldfields. They're still going to have their patients to see but it'll allow us to access other services we don't currently provide,' he said.

Mr Summerscales says he is surprised by how much he enjoys the virtual consultations. 'I thought it would seem very remote and very distant but having done it it's actually very natural and normal and you have a normal interaction. It's just like being in the room. I didn't think I'd like it at all, I thought I'd find it very strange but in fact I really enjoy it,' he said.

Source: ABC News, WA today


Last updated: 14 May 2013
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