CSIRO connects Remote-I to satellite broadband
The CSIRO has been successful in a project testing whether it can use its Remote-I tele-ophthalmology service over satellite broadband, screening over 1000 patients in remote areas for conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
It has also licensed the technology to US firm TeleMedC, which plans to integrate it into its EyeScan diagnostic solution, which is currently being used by NASA at the International Space Station for the assessment of intracranial pressure in astronauts.
The award-winning Remote-I, which has been developed over the years by a team from CSIRO's Australian E-Health Research Centre (AEHRC) led by Yogi Kanagasingam, has been used since 2011 to deliver early screening to patients living and working in remote areas of Western Australia such as mines and indigenous communities.
It uses a mixture of advanced imaging, video conferencing and store-and-forward technologies to connect metropolitan-based eye specialists with nurses and Aboriginal health workers in the field, but there were some doubts that it could be successfully used considering the latency issues facing satellite broadband.
In 2013, the CSIRO was awarded $2 million under the NBN-enabled telehealth pilots program to screen patients in Western Australia, Queensland and the Torres Strait and also to do a technical assessment to determine the efficacy of satellite broadband in delivering telehealth.
During the project, 68 patients were identified as at high risk of going blind, including those with macular oedema.
Remote-I captures high-resolution images of a patient's retina with a low-cost retinal camera, taken by a local health worker. The images are then uploaded to the cloud, where metropolitan-based specialists can view them on a tablet or desktop computer.
Consultant ophthalmologist for the project, Mei-Ling Tay-Kearney, said that once the image was uploaded, specialists were able to access it anywhere at any time.
“It takes me about five minutes to read the images, create the report, and then send it back to the health worker," Dr Tay-Kearney said.
Professor Kanagasingam said that after the successful trial with WA and Queensland, his team was looking to see how it could work with governments and health care providers to roll the technology out to other states and territories.
The team has licensed it to TeleMedC, which focuses on ophthalmic medical imaging devices and smart diagnostic software for screening and management of chronic diseases and eye conditions.
TeleMedC plans to take the technology to the US and world markets, TeleMedC CEO Para Segaram said.
"We've had a great experience working with the team at CSIRO, and licensing Remote-I has helped us make basic eye screening more efficient and affordable so we can reach as many people as possible," Mr Segaram said.
Professor Kanagasingam and his team have also won an NHMRC development grant to create an algorithm that can automatically identify all the pathologies related to diabetic retinopathy. Trials of this technology will be undertaken to see how it supports current and new referral pathways for patients.
NBN Co plans to launch the first of two long-term satellites this year, which will provide broadband to over 200,000 homes and businesses in remote areas of the country.
Posted in Australian eHealth