Fast connections through iPads and the NBN

A Tasmanian project is aiming to bridge the gap between general practitioners, an aged care facility and the public community hospital using iPads and a secure remote desktop connection linking three sites through the NBN.

In rural areas of Australia, GPs often provide medical services for the public community hospital, and the general practice is often co-located with the public health service. However, with both services provided by different entities, usually their computer systems have little or no integration.

Smithton, for example, is a small community in north-west Tasmania, serviced by a four-doctor general practice. The same four GPs provide services at the local residential aged care facility, and also at the local community hospital. As a discrete community, the majority of residents of the RACF and patients presenting to the community hospital are also patients of the local general practice.

When visiting the RACF and the community hospital, doctors don’t have access to their practice notes. Without the full patient history, medications and test results available to them, a doctor would sometimes drive to the practice to review practice notes before visiting the RACF to attend a colleague’s patient out of hours, and likewise afterwards to record the instance of care. Various solutions had been tried over the years, but due to slow connections with variable and slow broadband speed, they were abandoned.

As Smithton was one of the first NBN-enabled towns, an opportunity existed to try the speedier connection with new mobile technology. iPads were chosen as the device to connect to the GPs' clinical system as they provided portability and flexibility, and also contained cameras to allow for smooth and high-quality video calling between sites via the NBN if required. The iPad interface was also familiar to GPs who already had exposure to the touch interface and gestures common to the iPhone.

A secure remote desktop connection to a virtual computer located at the general practice was established, connecting the three sites – the general practice, the local hospital and the aged care facility – with all three sites connected to the NBN. Wireless cover at the respective facilities was established so the doctor could move freely and still have access.

Network printers were installed at both the RACF and hospital, which allowed the GPs to print patient letters, notes and prescriptions directly from their practice software while on site so they could be filed in the patient record or signed immediately.

While a seemingly simple solution, there were some teething problems.

To read the full story, click here for the November 2012 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Aged Care

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