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New Telemedicine Network In South Island

GREEN LIGHT FOR NEW TELEMEDICINE NETWORK IN SOUTH ISLAND

The Health Minister today announced approval for the piloting of new telemedicine networks for the southern South Island.

"The telemedicine initiatives will give patients better and speedier access to clinical and specialist medical expertise and will further test how telemedicine can contribute to better health outcomes," Mr Creech said today.

The first initiative covers neurosurgical services.

"Healthcare Otago will establish the neurosurgical telemedicine link between Dunedin and Christchurch providing professional support between the neurosurgeons at the two sites.

"It will also transmit diagnostic information from secondary and tertiary level hospitals serviced by the neurosurgeons to the neurosurgeons in Dunedin and Christchurch.

"This will make second opinions on difficult cases available and provide diagnosis opinions in the absence of a local neurosurgeon."

The second telemedicine initiative covers rural hospitals in the southern area and will be developed in conjunction with the Dunedin School of Medicine.

"A pilot project linking in the rural hospitals south of Oamaru with Dunedin and Invercargill will establish teleconferencing links between Dunedin, Invercargill, Gore, Balclutha, Queenstown, Clyde and Oamaru.

"It will support staff who provide emergency services in rural areas by providing visual access to expert opinion in critical or difficult situations and will support the transfer of a range of diagnostic images, and facilitate collaboration and teaching.

"Telemedicine is a key innovation that enables rural and isolated communities to have links to larger hospitals and experts quickly and effectively.

"Specialists will be able to diagnose, advise treatment, and monitor patients. The tool can also be used for continued education of health professionals in isolated areas.

"It will be a great asset to rural communities where often a specialist consultation involves a day's outing to the city.

"Patients will benefit from new technology: saving travel time, improving access to specialist care, and enabling GPs to give 'specialist-assisted' care.

"Healthcare Otago will now work on the specific details, specialities and timeframes for implementing the new telemedicine initiatives. This is expected to be done in the next six weeks."

Telemedicine fits in with the Government's Medium Term Strategy, Rural Health Policy and Roadside to Bedside policies.

"We are committed to giving people certainty about access, quality and security of services.

"We also need to keep looking for ways for medical professionals in rural areas to keep up their skills and have peer support to ensure people have the best care possible. The telemedicine proposals announced today will help."

$875,000 has been approved for the new telemedicine initiatives. Mr Creech made the announcement during a visit to Queenstown today.

ENDS

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