Every year more than one thousand regional children and their families are able to see a specialist based in Brisbane without even having to leave town. Instead, virtual appointments are provided via videoconference for the family, regional clinicians and specialists, saving extensive travel costs and the inconvenience of time away from home.
This ground breaking service is delivered by the Centre for Online Health (COH) at the Royal Children’s Hospital, for all regional and remote hospitals in Queensland including Mackay, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Mt Isa, Gympie and Emerald.
For more than 10 years, the COH – an internationally recognised pioneer in telemedicine – has broken new ground in the use of telehealth to bring specialist paediatric services to regional Queensland. It is now one of the largest providers of paediatric telemedicine (telepaediatrics) services in the world.
Since the centre began this work, more than 10,000 telehealth consultations in 37 paediatric subspecialties, such as burns and cardiology, have been conducted for thousands of regional families, saving them countless hours and kilometres in travel to Brisbane.
Our Research Breakthroughs
- An Australian-first trial of a new mobile health screening service with the potential to revolutionise health care for Indigenous children in Cherbourg has been a resounding success. The idea behind the service was a sensible one: provide a remote community with a mobile clinic, fully equipped with medical facilities for the onboard assessment of children and telecommunications which enable information to be shared with Brisbane-based paediatric specialists from a distance.
- Innovative applications of new communication technologies are also enabling doctors, whose tiny patients may be receiving specialist care at a different hospital, to attend ‘virtual ward-rounds’ at the bedside when local clinicians are discussing their progress. These same custom-made mobile telemedicine units – which are fitted out with video conferencing systems - are also beaming real-time video of children and babies, and their x-rays and scans, from regional centres down to Brisbane where specialists can provide diagnoses from afar. In four of the six regional hospitals where the mobile telemedicine units are operating, they’ve taken the form of a child-friendly ‘robot’ and have already earned a legion of fans in both patients and clinicians.
- Seventeen percent of all burns outpatient follow-up appointments at the Royal Children’s Hospital are now done via videoconference.
- Of the 145 newborn babies who have undergone urgent cardiac consultations via video-conferencing in the past eight years, only five have required retrieval for specialist care in Brisbane. Without telemedicine many of these tiny babies would have been flown to Brisbane to be assessed by a cardiac specialist.
Our hope for 2012 and beyond is:
- to extend the successful mobile telemedicine ‘robot’ trial from general wards into intensive and emergency care situations. Currently the telephone is the primary way regional hospital staff seek out expert medical advice for seriously ill or injured children. The project would investigate using mobile video-conferencing technology to beam the images, scans and other health information from very sick children in regional hospitals to paediatric specialists based in Brisbane who would be on the spot to diagnose and recommend treatment in consultation with local medical staff.