Speaking of virtual health …

25 Aug 2015

How does a speech pathologist treat a rural child without ever setting foot in their town?

Tara Shire State College (TSSC) students are now being linked directly with Brisbane-based health professionals via real-time video, thanks to the latest roll-out of The University of Queensland’s Health-e-Regions project.

UQ School of Medicine’s Centre for Online Health deputy director Dr Anthony Smith said the telehealth services generated through the project now included rehabilitative services such as speech pathology.

“This adds to the existing specialist medical telehealth services already benefiting the Darling Downs towns of Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles,” Dr Smith said.

“For young residents of Tara and surrounding areas experiencing speech and language problems this is a significant advantage.

“They can now access similar treatment to anyone living in a major city, but without leaving the familiar surroundings of their college.”

Dr Smith said the telehealth service complemented existing services offered through the public health system, GP clinics and aged-care facilities in the region.

“It removes the problem that most rural communities face – having to travel long distances for specialist treatment.”

The project has been expanded thanks to an additional $516,000 funding from natural gas company QGC, which has provided $1.8 million in the past three years to Health-e-Regions.

Telehealth consultations throughout the Darling Downs region peaked at almost 6000 between 2013 and 2014.

TSSC Principal Patric Brady said specialised speech training was also being delivered to the college’s teaching staff so they could integrate techniques into the classroom.

“If this service proves to work well, we hope it can be extended to more students and to other services such as audiology and occupational therapy,” Mr Brady said.

“For our community, the benefits of telehealth have enormous potential.

“The Health-e-Regions speech language project will complement the speech language services already provided to students of the college from Department of Education and Training.”

QGC Vice-President External Affairs and Sustainability Joanne Pafumi said investments in physical, mobile and virtual health services had been a major focus of the company’s community programs in the past four years.

“These investments have improved access to quality health services in the communities where we operate and made thousands of additional consultations possible,” Ms Pafumi said.

The Health-e-Regions project is led by UQ's Centre for Online Health in collaboration with UQ's Telerehabilitation Clinic and the Department of Education and Training, and supported by UQ's commercialisation arm UniQuest.


Media: Ruth Saunders, +61 7 3176 5669, r.saunders4@uq.edu.au; UQ Communications Robert Burgin, +61 7 3346 3035, r.burgin@uq.edu.au; Media Manager Bernadette Condren +61 7 3336 5309,b.condren@uq.edu.au