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From a smartphone app that scans your vital signs to doctors treating their far distant patients through "face time" on their tablets or computers, technology is changing the way thousands of Australians access health care.

General Practitioner Ashley Collins is stationed more than 1000 kilometres from his patient but he can get a blood pressure reading without laying a hand on the company director.

Using a video link and a portable machine owned by the patient he can measure blood glucose, pulse rate, body temperature, cholesterol and even get an ECG measurement.

When he's completed his diagnosis he faxes a script to the chemist nearest his patient.

Dr Collins, from Temorah in central western NSW, uses a specialised computer to deliver this care but from next year he says patients will be able to do this from their mobile phone.

Already there are new devices including ultrasounds, ECG monitors, mirocroscopes and dermatascopes that can view skin cancers and blood pressure monitors that can be plugged into a smartphone.

A picture of an inner ear or throat taken on a smart phone can help a doctor diagnose and infection.

One app even allows you to scan your vital signs just by placing the phone on your forehead to measure heart rate, and body temperature.

Telemedicine Australia GP Dr Collins is part of a network of 15 general practitioners and 270 specialists providing telemedicine to thousands of patients around Australia.

There is no Medicare rebate for the GP service he provides at a cost of $50 a session, a problem he thinks Medicare and health funds should remedy.

However, for those living outside a metropolitan area, a consultation with one of the 270 specialists connected to the service is free because it is covered by Medicare.

From next year he says telemedicine will be even easier to access, and families will be able to do everything from booking a doctors consultation to talking to the GP via facetiae, paying for the consult on their phone.

"You'll be able to do it while you're on a camping holiday, take an image of a child's sore throat, take their temperature on the phone and talk to the doctor who can send a script to the nearest chemist," he says.

Health fund Medibank is offering a similar service, connecting patients living outside metropolitan areas with around 40 specialists.

Anywhere Healthcare started in November 2012 and is close to providing its 1,500th consultation.

Telehealth was given a kickstart by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who made Medicare rebates for the service the centrepiece of her 2010 election campaign.

Since the program began in June 2011 there have been over 70,000 telehealth consultations.

Medibanks' director of Online Care is predicting that his service will treat 12,000 patients in 2014-15.

Telemedicine Australia tries to provide a consult with a GP within 15 minutes of a patient requesting a service.

Anywhere Healthcare says some patients have to wait only two weeks to talk to a specialist when the typical wait for a face to face consult could be months.

Patients using telehealth save money and time because rural patients can avoid costly drives that might take hours to get to a big city specialist.

It's also saving the health system millions of dollars.

A Griffith University Study found a telepaediatric service provided by the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane to the towns of Mackay and Hervey Bay saved Queensland Health $600,000.

Another service that provided telehealth to 110 cancer patients living in Mount Isa saved $418,000.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Sue Dunlevy

Quelle/Source: NEWS.com.au, 24.11.2013

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