Telehealth demonstration project extended to next year

The Telehealth Demonstration Project that has been running in the Bay of Plenty region for the last 18 months has been extended for another six.

The project has been funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to demonstrate the capability of telehealth to improve healthcare delivery as part of the roll-out of the Ultra-Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband initiatives.

In addition to helping kickstart telehealth in primary and community care by providing advice and support, participants have been given high-definition web cameras on long-term loan.

Project facilitator Ernie Newman said the project would now continue until the end of February 2015, and had picked up another sponsor as well.

“There are now four sponsors – the original three were Bay of Plenty District Health Board, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the National Health IT Board,” Mr Newman said. “They have been joined by Tairawhiti District Health.”

The project is aimed at encouraging wider use of telehealth beyond the hospital sector. It has achieved a number of wins, including the Opotiki Telehealth Community, where all GPs are now equipped with video capability in their clinics and their homes for after-hours care.

Nurses staffing the small Opotiki Community Health Centre can video conference with the duty GP at home, and can also link to the emergency department at Whakatane Hospital if needed.

“We didn’t look to reinvent what was already happening so that’s why our mission has been to go out into GP practices, Maori health clinics, hospices, aged care, and other health premises where we can see the potential for the use of this technology,” Mr Newman said. “We’ve had a focus particularly on areas where remoteness is an issue.”

More work needs to be done to allow district nurses to use telehealth while in the patient's home. Mr Newman said the cellular network in some areas is not good enough to ensure stable and fast links.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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