NBN key to telehealth growth

The provision of high-speed broadband through the NBN is a key technology underpinning the expected growth in the use of IT for healthcare applications, according to a panel of IT vendors.

High-speed broadband will enable further growth in the use of telehealth, cloud-based applications, network convergence and the ability to share data through electronic medical and electronic health records, with EMR and EHR use set to expand even further, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Frost & Sullivan managing director Mark Dougan told a forum in Sydney yesterday that with current healthcare expenditure approaching 10 per cent of GDP, governments were putting a priority on efficiency, affordability and timely delivery of healthcare services.

“IT offers a strategic way of achieving this, particularly with the NBN beginning to provide the necessary high-speed infrastructure,” Mr Dougan said. “As the network expands its reach, technologies such as cloud services, big data analytics and advanced visualisation tools have the potential to revolutionise the health sector.”

While the panel would not be drawn on whether the government's or the opposition's plans for the NBN were best, it did agree that high-speed broadband would improve the delivery of services, particularly for telehealth and cloud-based systems into rural and remote areas.

ADSL2+ broadband was adequate for telehealth provision when it comes to video conferencing, but the full potential of telehealth in sharing data and images would require higher speeds, according to Gerry Forsythe, regional sales manager for telehealth vendor LifeSize Communications.

“Within LifeSize we can deliver a 1080p image on 1.7Mbps today, and we can drop back to 720p at 1Mbps,” Mr Forsythe said. He said a local medical facility was using ADSL2+ and that was adequate for day to day video conferencing.

However, the ability to easily share patient data and diagnostic images during a video consult would require better speeds, he said.

“[Slower speeds] doesn't have a big impact right now,” Mr Forsythe said. “It will improve the way you share patient records though, as you do chew up a bit of bandwidth when you are doing that. Pulling the data up on the screen is the problem right now. Video? Not an issue. For data, yes.”

Scott Penno, country manager for networking infrastructure provider Allied Telesis, said it was not just the speed of high-speed broadband that was important, but its reliability.

“If you want to do a critical care service over a link, you'd probably want it to be over the NBN rather than an ADSL service because it is so much more reliable,” Mr Penno said.

“It's important to remember that when you are using high-resolution video cameras or pushing large amounts of data up, it's not going to work very well with ADSL.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

Comments   

# A/Prof Terry Hannan 2013-05-01 10:24
We all know that the NBN will change our world on data and information transfer dramatically but unless systems are properly designed around "effective information management that supports CDM and CPOE" care will not be effectively improved. If one reads the results from the RAFT project in Mali and other 'dial up/ADSL' systems that required synchronous and asynchronous communications it can be seen that "technology is not the problem, it is the information management needs that must be addressed" [Prof Charles Safran Harvard Centre for Clinical Computing].

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