Health to Benefit from National Broadband Network

Agenda - Health to Benefit from National Broadband Network - outback2

When Tony Windsor announced his support for a Gillard-led Federal Government after last year’s federal election, the National Broadband Network and health were central to his decision.

‘The issues I thought were critical to this, and possibly the most critical, was broad-band,’ Windsor said at the media con-ference where he announced his decision.

Windsor said the experts he had consulted about the National Broadband Network had been clear.

‘You do it once, you do it right and you do it with fibre’.

Windsor told ABC TV health and broad-band were the key issues for his constituents.

‘Health, broadband, and how it relates to future health,’ he said were those most frequently mentioned, along with education and infrastructure.

Many experts agree that e-health will have a crucial role in providing greater equity of access to health services made difficult by Australia’s large distances and dispersed populations.

There is a plethora of e-health appli-cations that are already available and making a difference where they can occur.

Advocates of e-health say the biggest obstacle to reaping the benefits of the burgeoning number of new technologies is the unreliability of the current system.

The National Broadband Network, with its high bandwidth to most of the population, will facilitate greater use of these technologies.

NSW HAS GREAT TECHNOLOGIES BUT LACKS THE NETWORK TO OPTIMISE THEM

NSW Health already has an extensive telehealth network.

Currently, there are more than 600 videoconferencing units, delivering a range of services to rural, regional, and remote health-care facilities across NSW.

NSW Health also has plans to expand the current telehealth services including extending video conferencing technology to Emergency Departments and to support primary care providers when patients at residential aged care facilities require movement to acute care.

In its submission to a parliamentary in-quiry into the NBN, NSW Health re-cognised the enormous benefits that the NBN will bring to the delivery of health in NSW.

‘NSW Health needs high-speed broad-band and data communications services that are reliable, available in all parts of the State and reasonably priced. The NBN will contribute to improved healthcare outcomes by providing such services,’ it said.

A BETTER HEALTH SERVICE FOR RURAL AND REMOTE AUSTRALIA

Rural and remote Australia stand to be the biggest beneficiaries from the NBN.

The Rural Health Alliance believes people living in rural areas stand to benefit substantially from e-health in its various guises. It warns, however, that rural and remote communities have the poorest infrastructure and thus a limited capacity to access and make use of e-health applications.

‘In the health sector, fast, effective and affordable broadband will be critical in making the benefits of e-health available to rural and remote patients, clinicians and researchers,’ it told the parliamentary inquiry into the NBN.

The Alliance said other benefits from the NBN besides its capacity to deliver health solutions will contribute to improved rural health.

‘The broader contribution of the NBN to improving the sustainability of rural and remote communities… [is] relevant to health as well.’

HOW THE NBN WILL IMPROVE HEALTH

  • Allow the use of high-definition videoconferencing for telehealth applications.
  • Support consultations with clinicians and give access to specialist support.
  • Allow self-management, chronic disease management and education for patients, their families and clinicians.
  • Facilitate mental health assessments and care for rural and remote patients.
  • Provide real-time transfer and management of clinical information and diagnostics.
  • Improve the collection and transfer of information between clinicians.