Chatham Islanders who need urgent or specialist medical treatment can now get help immediately without leaving home thanks to the installation of new video conferencing equipment.
Telehealth communications specialists, Vivid Solutions, have linked the Chatham Islands with medical staff at the Canterbury District Health Board who will now regularly consult with patients via satellite link.
The breakthrough will mean Chatham Islands residents no longer have to travel to the mainland for scheduled outpatient appointments, and expert medical knowledge can be accessed immediately in urgent cases.
The island only has one GP and a handful of nurses at present and i the case of serious accident or illness, a retrieval plane can take 4 to 6 hours to arrange with costs between $13-14,000 to fly the patient to hospital.
Vivid Solutions chief executive Simon Hayden says medical specialists based in Christchurch will now be able to assess the patient via video conference to get treatment underway as soon as possible.
“In some cases that treatment or diagnosis might mean a retrieval plane is no longer required, saving everyone time, money and the stress of having to travel while sick,” he says.
Hayden says the new equipment will reduce waiting times for outpatient appointments.
While patients and medical specialists will still travel to and from the mainland when necessary, Hayden believes the addition of video consultations will enhance and improve access to expert medical help.
“Travel can be very costly and the ability to speak face-to-face with ICU, neonatal intensive care and paediatric specialists, in particular, is extremely valuable when there is an urgent matter and time is of the essence,” he adds.
Hayden says Vivid Solutions has rolled out similar video conferencing technology to other remote locations around New Zealand but installing equipment on the Chatham Islands was more complex because of the distance involved.
“We had to ensure the satellite connections were sufficient and could operate clearly without disruptions,” Hayden adds.
“It’s important in clinical situations that the picture and sound quality is crystal clear so both medical staff and patients can communicate properly.”
Hayden says Chatham Islands medical staff will also use the video conferencing technology to participate in planning meetings, training and education sessions with the Canterbury DHB.
“They will be able to view important visual presentations via the secure network instead of relying solely on phone or email communication,” Hayden adds.
“This new service will also help the Canterbury District Health Board streamline their internal communications, saving time and money on travel and operational costs.
“It’s a win-win for the islands’ residents and the medical staff involved in providing ongoing care. We’re thrilled to have helped overcome these geographical barriers so locals can receive the very best medical advice and treatment without travelling too far from home.”
Vivid Solutions is New Zealand’s largest provider of video conferencing equipment and technology for the health industry.
At present, the company has 95 percent share of the New Zealand market and the system has been operating across the primary, secondary and tertiary health sector for over a decade.