Pilbara under CSIRO’s watchful Remote-i
CSIRO’s pioneering Remote-i technology is transforming life for people in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. Joshua Gliddon reports.
The Challenge: Bring specialist eye services to people living in remote communities.
The Approach: CSIRO uses static and video imaging to take pictures of a patient’s retinas. The images are transmitted to specialists.
The Outcomes: Better eye health for people living in remote communities. Better access to specialist eye services.
The Lessons Learned: Broadband is required for some services, including the use of video conferencing with eye specialists.
The Upside for:
Clinicians: Clinicians get better access to specialist services.
Patients: Patients have better access to specialist eye services even if they live in remote areas.
The Organisation: CSIRO won an innovation award for its pioneering eye health technology.
You won’t hear CSIRO health scientists expressing doubt about the forthcoming National Broadband Network. According to Dr Ian Opperman, director of CSIRO’s ICT Centre, the organisation’s recent developments in treating eye disease in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia is a prime example of how a national broadband network can assist people with chronic diseases living in rural and regional Australia.
“Remote-i is already helping people in WA’s Pilbara region and is a prime example of the technologies that are possible once Australia has a broadband network,” said Dr Opperman. He was speaking on receipt of the Victorian Government Inspiration Award, the top prize at 2011 National i-Awards.
The Remote-i initiative was lead by Dr Yogi Kanagasingam, the director of CSIRO’s ophthalmology technology team. It uses static imagery, store-and-forward, and video conferencing (although not all at once) to take high-resolution images – some of them in 3D – of the retina and then sends them to specialists in urban centres for analysis.
“The system can be used by nurses and other clinical staff such as diabetic educators to take images of the eye and then do consultations with the specialists at the other end,” Dr Kanagasingam told eHealthspace.org.
The specialists are then able to view the images on a desktop, or on a tablet computer such as Apple’s iPad, and provide their analysis and treatment guidelines back to the clinical staff at the remote location.
“Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases in the general population,” said Dr Kanagasingam, who returned from a Fulbright scholarship at Stanford University studying ophthalmology in time to receive the award.
“Along with glaucoma, remote communities, and in particular mining communities, are prone to eye injuries. Along with those, there’s also diabetic retinopathy which is becoming more prevalent in the Australian community, and in particular indigenous communities,” he said.
The system uses both static imagery, for low-bandwidth situations, along with video conferencing imagery for high bandwidth use. It’s based around the HL7 industry standard, ensuring interoperability with a wide range of hardware and software solutions.
Dr Kanagasingam said CSIRO is currently in talks with Queensland Health to extend use of the system to Townsville, adding the National Broadband Network would see it spread throughout the country.
“We are also looking at connecting optometrists, because in remote locations there is no second opinion at present,” he said. “This would allow that to occur.”
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