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Broadband potentially worth $190m to hospitals.



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9 January 2004 01/04

Broadband Potentially Worth $190m To Hospitals

Australian hospitals could benefit by more than $190 million over 10 years by using broadband technology, according to an Access Economics report released today.

The report, The Economic Impact of an Accelerated Rollout of Broadband in Hospitals, complements the work of the National Broadband Strategy Implementation Group which was established by the Australian Government to coordinate the work being done by all governments to improve broadband infrastructure and applications.

Access Economics found that connecting hospitals to broadband could extend the reach and contain the cost of providing many essential health care services.

The report focuses on several key health applications, including broadband-enabled psychiatry, ultrasound and radiology. The costs and service delivery benefits of these applications are particularly relevant to the Australian context, in delivering benefits to regional Australians.

Health services in Australia are a significant part of the economy and the costs associated with health delivery continue to grow. The productivity benefits of more efficient health service delivery are potentially significant.

The report identified potential cost savings from the greater use of broadband in hospitals including reductions in the cost of patient and staff movement when consultations can be conducted remotely; and benefits that emerge from moving a number of services on separate networks and other physical means (voice and data networks, couriers and postal services) onto a single high speed broadband network.

In welcoming the report, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Mr Tony Abbott, stated it promotes the benefits of broadband technology for Australia's health sector, and that broadband communications technology has the potential to deliver big improvements in the efficiency, quality and safety of care in hospitals and across all other parts of the health system.

The health sector's access to broadband is a major consideration for the National Broadband Strategy being developed in consultation with the State and Territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association.

Health sector outcomes are a major emphasis of the Government's $23.7 million Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund.

A national demand aggregation broker for the health sector will also be appointed in 2004 to work with health stakeholders to assess and coordinate the delivery of services to meet the broadband needs of health care providers.

The Access Economics study takes an important step towards quantifying the benefits of broadband and paves the way for further analysis by the health sector on the adoption of advanced network connectivity.

Copies of the study may be obtained from the National Office for the Information Economy website at http://www.noie.gov.au/projects/framework/Priorities/Broadband_in_Hospitals.pdf

Media Contact: Celia Hevesi (02) 6277 7480/ 0413 247 167