Qld trials videoconferencing for online medical 'visits'

An information technology pilot, which will trial home-based medical care via networked devices, is scheduled to go live mid-2000 in Brisbane.

The project is the first initiative of the Centre for Online Health at the University of Queensland, and is being run in conjunction with the Distributed Systems Technology Centre, Queensland Health, the CSIRO, Wesley Hospital, the Blue Nursing Service, and a number of IT vendors.

The pilot will involve the integration of Internet, telephone, fax and videoconferencing in a demonstration home environment, to give patients the option of receiving medical care at home rather than in hospital. It will be implemented in the Collaborative Health Informatics Centre in Brisbane.

Patients will be monitored by system feeds into their computer, enabling health professionals to monitor vital functions remotely.

Patients will order medication electronically, and meet their doctor via videoconference link, in addition to face-to- face contact.

According to the university's Professor Peter Yellowlees, IT-facilitated home care is "clearly the way of the future", and he believes the pilot will prove the concept.

Yellowlees predicts that within five years, many thousands of patients in Queensland, who would have previously been cared for in hospital, will be looked after at home via such IT services.

Yellowlees said the ability to provide home care using information technology will reduce the number of hospital beds required, and lead to a reduction in the cost of health care.

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More about Collaborative Health Informatics CentreCSIROCSIROQueensland HealthUniversity of QueenslandUniversity of QueenslandWesley Hospital

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