The Australian e-Health Research Centre (AeHRC) has attracted the attention of two major international sponsors following the announcement last month that the centre had won both the Victorian Government Inspiration and Blackberry eHealth iAwards for its tele-ophthalmology solution.
The Victorian Government Inspiration iAward is the highest company honour bestowed at the national iAwards for technology innovators, which is hosted annually by the Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Computer Society, and the Pearcey Foundation.
The innovative Remote-I eye care program delivers remote diagnosis and treatment to the doorsteps of under-served communities in rural and remote Australia.
Dr Yogesan Kanagasingam, Research Director of the AeHRC and President of the Australasian Telehealth Society, said that the project had attracted an “unexpected” response from potential corporate partners.
“Winning the iAward was not just a validation of the impact we’re having on healthcare, it has helped bring the project to the attention of influential people who would never otherwise have heard about us,” Dr Kanagasingam said. “We have received enquiries from many countries seeking solutions to eye care in remote areas, including China, India, Fiji and the US.”
The service, which is sponsored by the WA Government (Pilbara Development Commission), helps eliminate preventable blindness with early screening, clinical decision support and treatment programs delivered using video-conferencing and mobile technologies.
Remote-I has been successfully trialled in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where the mining industry has created demand for emergency treatment of injuries at mine sites and where diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of blindness in indigenous communities.
Dr Yogesan Kanagasingam, Research Director of the Australian E-Health Research Centre, says that the system eliminates the need for expensive transportation of patients and specialists from metropolitan hospitals and enables care within communities.
“Currently, residents in the Pilbara region have to wait for a visiting ophthalmologist for eye assessment or are required to travel long distances to participate in screening programs,” Dr Kanagesingam said.
“This is a significant deterrent. Tele-eye care has proven to be a valid and accurate method of ophthalmic assessment but perhaps more importantly it means that more people seek treatment because they don’t have to travel far away from their communities to seek help.”
Remote-I can be operated by nurses and primary care providers wherever they are located. It includes automated disease diagnosis, real-time video conferencing, store-and-forward telemedicine and advanced imaging to visualise disease progress.
The system targets adult screening for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, childhood vision screening, and assessment of ophthalmic emergencies.
“Remote-I enables electronic health records to be part of telemedicine consultation and empowers remote doctors and nurses to diagnose disease before there is irreversible damage,” Dr Kanagesingam said.
“Patient data can be entered in the system by regional and remote health-care workers for assessment by metropolitan based ophthalmologists.”
Ian Birks, Chair of the 2010 iAwards Committee, said that the Victorian Government Inspiration iAward is presented for outstanding technology that has had a strong impact on its customers and Australia as a whole.
“AeHRC won against a very strong field because of the clear benefits the service is delivering and its potential for delivering a similar solution on a worldwide basis,” Mr Birks said.
Further studies are being conducted to deliver Remote-I’s non-invasive ocular imaging techniques in cases of Alzheimer's Disease and other neuro-degenerative diseases.
About the Australian e-Health Research Centre (AeHRC)
The Australian e-Health Research Centre (AeHRC) is a leading national research facility in ICT for healthcare innovations. AeHRC is a joint venture between CSIRO and the Queensland Government and has recently established its operation in Western Australia. AeHRC conducts high quality, applied research that aims to improve the quality and safety of health care for individuals and communities through an ICT research program focused on applied outcomes and active adoption by the health system. The research program addresses the National Research Priority area "Promoting and Maintaining Good Health". It is also aligned with priorities identified by Queensland Health in Smart State: Health 2020 and with the CSIRO National Research Flagship Strategy.The research programs also align with the four priority action areas: prevention, early detection and treatment, integration of care and self-management.