E-health shrinks distance to improve SA mental health services

23 February 2011

E-health shrinks distance to improve SA mental health services
Barcode scanners and ‘real time’ interactive web-based communication and networking technologies are
being used to enhance the ability of South Australia’s mental health workers to overcome the problems
associated with distance.
“South Australia covers a million square kilometers with a scattered population and continues to rely heavily
on general practitioners to provide mental health care,’’ says Dr Fielke, Clinical Director of Mental Health,
Country Health SA. “Traditional strategies to overcome vast distances have not always proved
successful,while recruiting and retaining a skilled, specialised workforce has also been challenging .’’
However significant improvements have been achieved since the implementation of e-health initiatives.
“In the past decade high-quality specialist input has been used to enhance local care by successfully
embedding video-conferencing into our consultation-liaison primary care psychiatry model. This has led to
detailed planning in our current model of care to maximise the potential of information and communications
technology (ICT) as we move to a truly ‘virtual environment’ says Dr Fielke.
Country Health SA will begin by using the Digital Regions Initiative to upgrade its broadband infrastructure to
form a statewide SA Health Digital Telehealth Network. This will enable trials of various ICT applications to
maximise the benefits of the digital network.
“We are currently trialing ‘real-time’ interactive web-based communication and networking technologies,
such as wiki portals and web conferencing to facilitate discussions among geographically isolated workforce,
so that they can contribute to the further development of the service,’’ said Dr Bidargaddi, Manager of
Mental Health Research & Observatory Unit, CHSA
More than 900 delegates from all parts of the country will hear Dr Fielke and Dr Bidargaddi deliver a
paper on the benefits of e-health initiatives at the 11th biennial National Rural Health Conference in
Perth from 13-16 March.
For details on how to book your conference spot go to www.ruralhealth.org.au