Wireless smartphones essential to e-health: CSIRO

Wireless smartphones have as great a role to play in e-health development as videoconferencing across fibre networks

While e-health has to date largely focused on doctor-patient videoconferencing over fibre networks, wireless-enabled smartphones could soon grow to become the health service delivery platform of choice for many Australians, according to the CSIRO.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia ahead of his presentation at the Wireless Health conference in Sydney, CSIRO ICT Centre director, Ian Oppermann, said recent trials carried out by the agency of a care assessment platform had shown wireless smartphones could deliver healthcare services.

“We have been delivering… cardiac care via smartphones for patients who have heart operations and then have post-operative care targeted to them,” he said. "[The service] provides recommendations for exercise and provides feedback about how people engage with it – whether they are following the program or not.

“Because smartphones are fairly sophisticated platforms it is possible to deliver fairly sophisticated services targeted to an individual’s needs wirelessly using mobile systems.”

As smartphones were designed with ease of use in mind, patients of all ages were able to quickly adopt and use health services delivered on the platform, Oppermann said.

“We had people [in the trial] who were not exactly techno-savvy; there was one gentleman who was 80 years old and who had never had a mobile phone in his life,” he said. “He ran through the whole program and at the end of the day didn’t want to give the phone back.”

The trial of 80 patients in a metropolitan environment had shown hospital re-admission rates for patients using the care assessment platform was “substantially lower” than those that did not use the platform, Oppermann said.

On top of the care assessment platform, the CSIRO is also trialling remote eye care in the Pilbara region in Western Australia, omething it hopes will one day be delivered using its Ngara wireless over analogue television spectrum technology.

The agency has also previously trialled wired e-health initiatives including the Remote Immersive Diagnostic Examination System (RIDES).

The system provides multiple video streams, spatial audio, document sharing, bidirectional annotation of video views through which both parties can sketch on video of the patient, real-world annotation using laser light to ‘draw’ on objects and people, three dimensional video, and tactile guidance of equipment such as a camera.

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