Queensland to use existing infrastructure in telehealth network

The Queensland government has announced seven evaluation sites for its promised Rural Telehealth Service, which it says will use existing and underused infrastructure to improve telehealth provision to people in rural and remote areas of the state.

The towns of Alpha, Eidsvold, Moura, Kowanyama, Normanton, Roma and Bedourie have been chosen as the evaluation sites for the expansion of the $30 million project, funding for which was announced in the June budget.

The government promised the new service in its February Blueprint for better healthcare in Queensland, with the funding to be spread over four years.

The blueprint stated that a network of telehealth facilities would be developed, expanded and co-ordinated to bring remote residents straight into the waiting room of the most advanced hospitals in the state.

“Under the Rural Telehealth Service facilities in different communities will be standardised, upgraded or re-orientated to enable networking at-call,” it said. “As the scope and scalability of the new facilities is developed, training and workplace arrangements will enable local emergency access for patients at-call, up to 24 hours a day.”

Six trial sites for the Rural Telehealth Service were planned to be created in 2013, although this seems to have been expanded to seven.

“The Rural Telehealth Service will be introduced as the mainstay of health delivery in these locations,” the blueprint states. “Instead of being used primarily to back-up services at places like Mount Isa, Rockhampton and Maryborough, telehealth will deliver new services and advanced treatment options in places where they were never previously available.”

At the announcement, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said Queensland had one of the largest managed telehealth networks in Australia with more than 1500 systems deployed in over 200 hospitals and community facilities.

He told the Toowoomba Chronicle that they had been installed in previous years but were largely underutilised.

He said he wanted to reinstate a number of services that had been lost through these idle systems, particularly in paediatrics, oncology and cardiology.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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