Innovative link to medical specialists

May 2010

An innovative online program is bringing specialist medical support directly into the emergency department of Portland District Health.

The new monitor system connects patients in Portland to a network of skilled specialists around Victoria.

The new Datascope Panorama Central Monitor and Web Viewer allow doctors in Portland to consult specialists who will be able see and monitor their patients via on-screen images.

Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine Director and Portland Emergency Department Director, Dr Tim Baker, said the system would ensure patients get the very best care available.

Alcoa Australia has funded the new hardware and software through its Partnering Stronger Communities program.

Dr Baker said the equipment would collect a patient’s pulse, blood pressure, heart rhythm and breathing patterns and monitor trends such as falling blood pressure or increasing pulse rate. The web viewer makes the information available on a secure internet site.

Dr Baker said Portland hospital staff already consulted specialists from larger centres on a regular basis and transferred information such as X-rays and photographs.

“The Panorama weblink is the most important aspect of this telemedicine capability in that it provides direct access to the vital signs that are so important in assessing a critically ill patient,” he said.

Dr Baker said that doctors in rural hospitals such as Portland were often isolated from specialist support.

“Rural hospitals simple cannot employ every type of medical specialist and it is not uncommon to seek specialist support a few times per week. With the new monitor an emergency physician can now call for advice to and the specialist can see the patient and monitor their vital signs. As they say, a picture tells a thousand stories.”

“The specialist can log in and view streaming patient data remotely from virtually anywhere.”

It is expected the system will be used by the emergency physician on call for the Portland and Warrnambool hospitals, the Cardiology Unit at Geelong Hospital, the Alfred Hospital and the Adult Retrieval Service in Melbourne.

Dr Baker said it would be used for the safe care of patients with a variety of critical conditions or injuries and would be used to monitor patients waiting for transfer by air services to other hospitals.

Dr Baker said Alcoa’s support for the project was fantastic. “This equipment will save lives,” he said.

The Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine, which is based at Deakin University in Warrnambool, is also funded by Alcoa Australia in conjunction with the Department of Health.