Broadband technology for medical professionals in rural Australia

The Commonwealth Government hopes a new IT trial will improve communications between widely separated health providers.

The Kalgoorlie Boulder region will become a reference site for the Access to Broadband Technology Initiative and is expected to be fully operational by the end of November.

The government allocated $9.2 million over two years in the 2003/04 Budget to provide GPs in rural and remote areas with access to broadband technology.

The Eastern Goldfields Regional Reference Site will test, measure and demonstrate the benefits to health care providers of having high-speed, continuous, broadband connectivity.

It includes 50 GPs in 20 practices, a number of specialists, regional and district hospitals, and Aboriginal medical services. GPs’ homes will also be connected.

The benefits of access to this type of technology include: support for video consultations between doctors in different settings and locations; online delivery of results from services such as scans, pathology, radiology and ultrasounds; and ‘real time’ connectivity to the Health Insurance Commission.

“It should break down the barriers of distance and ultimately open up more facilities and services for doctors and patients to access,” Mr Abbott said.

A preferred supplier has been identified and contract negotiations have commenced. The successful supplier should be known by the end of July.

The site was chosen because it experiences urban, rural and remote conditions.

The Eastern Goldfields Regional Reference Site covers the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the surrounding region and extends from the coastal town of Esperance in the south, to the inland town of Wiluna in the north.

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