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Virtual Care in regional and remote Tasmania gets smart.

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Monday 23 July 2007

Virtual Care in regional and remote Tasmania gets smart

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan and the Member for Bass Michael Ferguson today announced the seventh preferred applicant under the first round of the Clever Networks Innovative Services Delivery element.

$5 million in funding will be provided by the Australian Government to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services who, with Diabetes Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia and Austin Health in Victoria, will contribute $6.77 million in funding to the project.

“The Virtual Care@TAS program is an innovative program of high bandwidth, broadband-dependent initiatives that address national health priorities,” Senator Coonan said.

“It will ensure people living in regional and rural areas in Tasmania have better access to health and human services and ‘continuity of care’ when they are ill. It is a testament to the real-world differences that broadband is bringing to peoples lives.”

The program will focus on consumer outcomes and will demonstrate new service models for rural emergency management, diabetes, oncology, aged care and rehabilitation.

“The program will see 23 new rural and remote communities obtain access to Telehealth enabled services,” Senator Coonan said.

“A total of 28 specialist clinical disciplines will provide direct access through state-of-the-art network and system facilities.

“Overall, 85 new Internet Protocol connection points will be created to support high quality state-wide video consultations.”

The VirtualCare@TAS program is made up of four initiatives.

1. Statewide Medical Advice, Referral and Transfer Network (SMARTN)

SMARTN will provide a ‘first response’ remote medical advice, patient triaging and assessment capacity, with access to specialist advice for rural hospital staff during an emergency. SMARTN will focus on remote emergency management and incorporate access to critical care, neurology, and cardiology specialists. SMARTN will also have the capacity to co-ordinate a pandemic response.

2. Chronic Disease Health Coaching Network

The Network will provide remote clinical supervision for diagnosis and treatment in the areas of diabetes, cancer, mental health and spinal care for patients, in rural and remote Tasmanian communities. This will mean that a regional cancer patient will be able to undergo chemotherapy treatment delivered from local integrated community care centres, and administered by their local health professionals who will have direct access to remote specialist expertise.

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3. ‘Remember Me’ Aged Care Network

The Aged Care Network will provide state-wide access to Alzheimer’s Australia Memory Clinic and dementia care educators for rural health professionals and isolated families and carers. The network will also provide the capacity to facilitate enhanced ‘acute to residential care’ transition planning while a patient is in hospital waiting for a permanent placement in an aged care residential facility. This will avoid unnecessary acute care hospital bed blockages, reduce surgery waiting lists and provide beds for acutely ill patients.

4. Telehealth Tasmania Outreach Network

The Outreach Network will extend the existing Telehealth Tasmania network funded by the Australian Government’s Networking the Nation Program. The Network will support a number of new service access points and new community connectivity as well as mobile telehealth systems, bandwidth upgrades and new broadband installations. The network will play a key role in supporting Fire and Ambulance volunteers through delivery of training programs and post-emergency debriefing sessions.

Mr Ferguson said the program would underpin the concept of a ‘hospital without walls’.

“This will be done by using the resources of large tertiary care institutions to provide access to services otherwise not available in rural and remote health communities.

“The integrated suite for virtual care will have the potential to be replicated in other states and territories to address emerging issues such as equity of access to healthcare and worldwide health professional skills shortage,” Mr Ferguson said.

Clever Networks is a $113 million Australian Government program that will see improved delivery of services in regional, rural and remote Australia through innovative broadband projects.

Successful projects to receive Clever Networks first round funding will include virtual healthcare, remotely accessible interactive education services, and delivery of integrated state-wide emergency services.

More information about specific projects will become available as each successful project is announced.

More information about Clever Networks is available at

Media Contact: Senator Coonan’s office, Katherine Meier 0417 441 141 Mr Ferguson’s office, Tim Robertson 0407 183 549

Page ID: 71561 Last Modified: 07/25/2007

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