Current and Future Telehealth Technologies in Queensland Health

Daniel Best1

1 Telehealth Support Unit, Queensland Health, Level 2 / 15 Butterfield St, QLD, 4006, daniel.best@health.qld.gov.au

 

Telehealth technology is an ever changing environment within Queensland Health. Since the first introduction of two videoconference units with ISDN lines over 20 years ago, Queensland Health has now grown to one of the largest managed telehealth networks in the world with over 1,600 hardware based and 3,000 software based videoconference units in over 200 facilities. A major role of the Queensland Health Telehealth Support Unit is to research, test and implement emerging technologies. These technologies currently include:

  • A wide range of standard videoconference setups available to suit a variety of telehealth needs in Queensland Health. These include a range of trolley based solutions for consultations rooms or ward scenarios and wall mount solutions for dedicated telehealth rooms
  • Customised and fit for purpose telehealth setups including integrated operating theatre installations with connections to laparoscopes and endoscopes for live surgery scenarios
  • Portable clinical peripheral videoconference attachments such as otoscopes, dermatoscopes, and intraoral cameras
  • Connecting larger clinical equipment such as ultrasound machines and exercise stress test machines into videoconference equipment for live advice and diagnosis
  • Specialised microphones used in Speech Pathology to remotely assess patients’ coughs and swallows
  • Digital Stethoscopes for live remote heart and lung assessments
  • High end dual camera installations with extensive pan, tilt and zoom capabilities in resuscitation bays for emergency advice and coordination
  • Using an iPod touch as a hand held examination camera when connected to a videoconference system
  • Videoconferencing on iPads to allow telehealth at the patient’s bedside and even in their own homes
  • The Queensland Health Telehealth Portal that uses WebRTC technology to easily and securely allow external clients to videoconference into Queensland Health through any web browser without the need to download, install or register to anything

Future Technologies that are on the roadmap include:

  • Wearable videoconferencing solutions that can provide a “point of view” experience to assist in emergency consultations or live surgery
  • Virtual waiting rooms to assist large outpatient telehealth clinics by providing a dashboard overview of who is connected to the virtual waiting room and the ability to transfer patients in and out
  • Augmented reality scenarios including overlay and annotation capabilities during a videoconference to provide better directions for procedure based telehealth

By constantly researching and testing new technologies, Queensland Health benefits from a highly efficient, advanced and flexible telehealth network. Timely implementation of these new technologies is key to keeping clinicians enthusiastic and embedding telehealth as part of everyday clinical practice in the treatment of patients.