Western Australia Minister for Health Kim Hames
New $6 Million Upgrade To WA’s Telehealth System Launched
Victor P Taffa
Conducting Health Consultations via Cyberspace is now reality for Patients and Health Professionals across Western Australia, thanks to the completion of a $6 Million Upgrade to the State’s Telehealth System unveiled today.
Health Minister Kim Hames said the new State-Of-The-Art Technology would deliver safe, secure and cost-effective video linkage across the State, improving access to high-quality health care for patients closer to home and potentially save the WA health system about $1.5 Million annually.
“This amazing technology literally opens the door to a multitude of applications for patients and health professionals, particularly those living in Regional WA.” Dr. Hames said.
Today in Karratha, the Minister demonstrated the technological advancements by joining a multi-site videoconference consultation linking a Bunbury Burns Patient with a Clinical Nurse Consultant at Princess Margaret Hospital and Burns Specialist Dr. Fiona Wood in Perth.
Dr. Hames said the upgraded Telehealth approach would not replace face-to-face clinical services, but enhance the provision of health care where distance was an issue.
“Delivery of high quality health services is a team approach and for rural and remote patients, the health team may not always be within either the same location or within the State health system.” the Minister said.
“A Rural Patient requiring follow-up wound care may have a team comprised of clinicians from both Perth and the local health provider involved in their post surgery care via videoconferencing. The clear advantage of this approach is the improved clinical communication between the health care team, plus reduced travel and dislocation for the patient.”
The ability to link securely across the WA Health Firewall, while linking multiple parties on the Health Network, is a major achievement, not just for patient care and cost effectiveness, but also for health staff to access required education and training.
“About 454,000 West Australians live across an area of 2.55 Million Sq km. Asking a patient to travel from Broome to Perth for a 10 Minute consult is like asking them to travel from Moscow to London.” the Minister said.
“This advanced Telehealth Technology can help overcome the barrier of distance and significantly improve health services to our remote communities, providing secure linkage to enable external stakeholders to hold consultations and share information.
“Partnerships will be strengthened with capacity for more government and non-government providers like GPs being able to connect cost effectively with the Health Network for service delivery, education and networking.”
Dr. Hames said the new technology providing videoconference links outside the public health system would enable Telehealth to be accessed from patient’s homes in certain cases in the future.
“We have established a strong infrastructure base, positioning WA well for service innovation and delivery, but we are really at the start of the Telehealth journey in WA Health.” the Minister said.
“There is still work to do to further develop and enhance Telehealth and realise its full potential. It’s a very exciting work in progress.”
Funding for the infrastructure upgrade included $3 Million from the State Government, matched with funding under the Commonwealth Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy’s Clever Networks program Round 2.
The videoconference network within WA Health has been extended to more than 350 dedicated units with an emergence of desktop video software, making access to video for clinicians more user-friendly.