Webcam consultations may happen for rural patients

ILL and injured patients in rural Queensland could consult their doctors using a webcam on their computers in the not too distant future.

And regional patients in disaster situations could avoid evacuation if skilled specialists can help via video link-ups to isolated communities.

But, for now, regional Queensland healthcare providers are excited about being able to admit patients to their doctorless hospitals again, instead of shipping them off to the nearest facility with a medical clinician.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, speaking via a video-link from Alpha Hospital in Central Queensland to the Brisbane emergency management headquarters, said the $30.9 million allocated in the budget for the next four years would evaluate technology-based services across rural communities Alpha, Eidsvold, Moura, Kowanyama, Normanton, Roma and Bedourie.

He said he also would work toward immediately expanding telehealth use across the 1500 systems available in 200 hospitals and community clinics across Queensland.

Mr Springborg said the infrastructure had been tragically under utilised.

He said patients could now be admitted locally with experienced staff monitoring them competently with back-up from a doctor assisting them remotely.

"It will also allow us to expand in the areas of paediatrics, oncology and cardiology which are not routinely used," he said.

"It is highly possible as well we can expand the services beyond that towards people being able to be consulted with from where their homes are as well."

Mr Springborg said the video consultations with doctors in other hospitals had benefits for patients and doctors and the unnecessary travel savings could be invested into the system for further enhancements.

"Telehealth will feature strongly in the future delivery of healthcare in regional and rural Queensland, and that is why this government has invested so strongly in the network," he said.

"Utilising and expanding this network will transform the way some services are delivered in these communities and will create a new generation of care.

"These seven new sites are just the first step in ensuring Queenslanders, regardless of where they live, can access high quality healthcare in a more timely fashion."



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