State by state: telehealth growth in rural SA

Country SA Health's executive director for mental health, Rebecca Graham, outlined the growth in use of telehealth in the state at RMA 2014 and briefly touched on some of the problems being experienced with the roll-out of the $422 million EPAS system.

Ms Graham said the Country SA Local Health Network had more than 170 endpoints in around 90 sites across the network, and the service was seeing an exponential growth in the uptake of telehealth.

“We have managed to put eight video conferencing units into seven communities in the [Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara] Lands and while we do have some issues in relation to quality of picture, at times it is sensational,” she said.

“We've had young blokes from very remote communities down in Adelaide being treated and being able to see their family via video conferencing. That has been sensational.”

Ms Graham said mental health had been a leader in the use of telehealth in SA, followed by cancer, cardiology and renal services. “It has been driven very much by the specialty rather than being seen as a technical solution,” she said.

SA is trialling an out-of-hours support service for GPs on the Eyre Peninsula and it is also looking at WA's Emergency Telehealth Service to see if it can be adopted.

“We had a fantastic name for it – SAVES – but we discovered that that was also the [South Australian voluntary euthanasia society's] acronym, so we are going to be changing that.”

In terms of eHealth, she said SA Health had rolled out iPharmacy across the state and work on the patient master index was also complete.

“With EPAS, we have had difficulties in relation to that – it is a very expensive system and it has been very difficult to roll out and whilst the solution will be excellent at the end of the day, the reality is I don't know how long it will be before we have a consistent system.”

EPAS has been installed at Noarlunga and Port Augusta hospitals but is facing some fierce resistance by clinicians at the latter, in addition to the documented problems the system has with its billing module.

Ms Graham said the plan for new medical imaging and pathology systems were still in the pipeline but all eyes were on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, which when added to the research institutes set to be co-located would probably form the biggest health precinct in Australia.

“They have not allowed for any paper records, so we had better find a solution by the time it opens in 2018,” she said.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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