Libs & Nats announce $2M Telehealth Technology Centre

Friday, 28 January 2011

A NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will provide $2 million to establish a Telehealth Technology Centre in Penrith to drive technology based solutions for delivering health care closer to home for rural and regional patients, NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell and Shadow Minister for Health Jillian Skinner announced today.

The Telehealth industry has been operating in NSW for many years, and includes a range of activities that use teleconferencing, videoconferencing, the internet, smart phones and other communications for:

  • Monitoring of patients with a chronic disease, or consulting with patients who would otherwise have to travel vast distances to see a clinician;
  • Second opinion and decision support for clinicians working in distant facilities;
  • Meetings and administration within and between Local Health Districts.

\"This is a positive practical plan to use new and emerging technology to better deliver health services closer to home for patients across NSW,\" Mr O'Farrell said.

\"We should be taking advantage of communications technologies to ease the burden on patients who currently drive hours to a hospital to attend a 10 minute follow-up consultation. Telehealth initiatives can not only deliver better patient care, but save patients time and money,\" he said.

\"Why shouldn't a patient be able to speak to their specialist via services like Skype, email their doctor a regular diabetes blood analysis or have a nurse remotely monitor the symptoms of a chronic disease like asthma?

\"This is a boost for rural and regional patients across regional NSW

\"The proliferation of accessible online services like Skype have created new opportunities NSW needs to be taking advantage of to deliver better patient care.

\"The Telehealth Technology Centre at Nepean Hospital will develop and pilot clinician sponsored models of care which use the latest telemedicine technology to reduce the barriers of distance for providing health care in NSW.

\"Patients should be focusing on their recovery, not worrying about how much money they'll have to spend travelling hundreds of kilometres to and from various hospital outpatient appointments.

\"At Nepean Hospital alone there are around 250,000 outpatient services provided every year, including for patients more than 100 kilometres away - we are committed to delivering more of those services closer to patients' homes,\" Mr O'Farrell said.

Mrs Skinner said the Telehealth Technology Centre will provide services to patients who have to travel more than 100km for treatment and build on the good work already being done by committed clinicians in this emerging area of health care.

\"NSW has the best medical workforce in the country, and we need to better connect them with their patients using today's technologies,\" Mrs Skinner said.

\"While Nepean Hospital was chosen to pioneer this exciting project because of its location at the foot of the Blue Mountains and its unique Virtual Critical Care Unit, the work done there will have benefits across the state.

\"This will benefit patients across NSW, particularly those patients living west of the Great Dividing Range who need increased access to oncology and other services.

\"The Telehealth Technology Centre will work with primary and community care clinicians, government and the non-government sector to explore opportunities and better ways to provide care close to home.

\"Currently patients who live in places like Portland face up to four hours on public transport to attend an outpatient appointment at Nepean Hospital - an absurd situation for a modern society in the 21st century.

\"This is an exciting field and I want NSW to lead the nation and be the number one state when it comes to technology driven health services.

\"The NSW Liberals & Nationals are committed to providing patient care closer to home and making NSW number one again,\" Mrs Skinner said.

The establishment of the Telehealth Centre will be overseen by Professor Mohamed Khadra, a Professor of Surgery at Sydney University and Head of Urology at Nepean Hospital. He has postgraduate degrees in Surgery, Computing and Education.

\"Telehealth has enormous potential to improve patient care,\" Professor Khadra said.

\"Any funds that improve the capacity of NSW clinicians to access this technology and help their patients get the care they need closer to home is welcomed,\" he said.

Liberal Member for Penrith Stuart Ayres welcomed the announcement.

\"The establishment of a Telehealth Technology Centre at Nepean Hospital is a demonstration of the talent our local doctors have. It means residents of Penrith and the lower mountains who find it difficult to visit the hospital will be able engage with the medical staff at Nepean face-to-face without having to even be in the same building.\"

Dr Michael Steiner, President AMA (NSW), welcomed the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government announcement to establish a Telehealth Technology Centre at Penrith.

\"The needs of rural and regional Australia had been neglected for too long. Regional and rural communities need to be able to access health services as close as possible to their communities and the Telehealth Technology Centre will provide support and services to local doctors and patients,\" he said.

\"The establishment of the Telehealth Technology Centre will allow a clear allocation of resources and a planned and systematic approach to the delivery of electronic health services. The Centre will also ensure that there is able to be clear process for assessing the effectiveness of the services and the benefits that are able to be delivered to regional and rural communities,\" Dr Steiner said.