Roy the Robot has been installed at Gladstone Hospital. One screen is Dr Anthony Smith. Beside Roy is Dr Bob McCrossin.
Roy the Robot has been installed at Gladstone Hospital. One screen is Dr Anthony Smith. Beside Roy is Dr Bob McCrossin. Centre For Online Health

Internet a vital health tool

YOU could be forgiven for blanking out every time the government tells you about how the National Broadband Network will improve health services, but what are the health professionals saying?

Associate Professor Anthony Smith, deputy Director of the Centre for Online Health, told The Observer the internet has already boosted our ability to provide health services and the NBN will provide the opportunity for that to expand.

He said the internet is being used in countless ways by health professionals, but the biggest buzzword at the moment is “telemedicine”, the use of online videoconferencing to provide specialist clinical consultation for patients. Prof Smith said a healthcare professional is generally in the room with the patient while the specialist conducts the consultation via the screen.

“People need to change the way they think about providing healthcare. (The NBN) will be one of the factors that allows online healthcare networks to improve.”

He said while speed would be an obvious plus, the biggest benefit to could come from the NBN would be reliability across the entire population.

Dr Yvette Miller, from the Queensland Centre for Mothers & Babies at Queensland University Brisbane says the internet is already bringing huge benefits.

Dr Miller said real-time broadband speeds allowed videoconferencing to be used to conduct antenatal classes for pregnant women unable to attend classes, as well as providing access to midwives for women in regional areas.

She believes the NBN’s greatest attribute would be creating equality of access. “I don’t think it is currently equally accessible to everyone,” Dr Miller said. “The current access (of people) to the Internet mirrors the problems we have in providing healthcare to people. That needs to be fixed before we can move forward.”

“I think the NBN is actually crucial to how much the health services can benefit from the internet,” she said.



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