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UQ’s Centre for Online Health and QGC to establish Health e-REGIONS - Australia’s first-ever telehealth service specifically for mining communities.

Families in Queensland’s Western Downs will benefit from a new partnership between The University of Queensland’s(UQ) Centre for Online Health (COH) and natural gas developer QGC Pty Limited, coordinated by UQ’s main research commercialisation company, UniQuest.

The Health e-REGIONS project is a whole-of-community approach to establishing a comprehensive network of telehealth services in the towns of Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles, and is the first initiative of its kind to improve access to specialist health services for families living in remote areas.

QGC is developing the world’s first coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas project, Queensland Curtis LNG, in parts of the Western Downs, North Burnett, Banana Shire and Gladstone.

UniQuest Acting CEO, Dean Moss, said the partnership demonstrated how Australian communities are benefitting from academic research via industry collaboration.

“Advancements in telemedicine and e-health arising from UQ research are opening up new possibilities for improving access to key health resources, which tend to be centralised around capital cities. Partnerships like this one between the COH and QGC make it possible to introduce innovation to communities where it can make a powerful difference, as well as support the government’s Rural Health Initiative and National E-health Strategy,” Dr Moss said.

“UQ’s COH has contributed significantly to global knowledge generation about telehealth service delivery and now Australians will benefit from innovative healthcare models developed here such as RES-e-CARE, which enables residents and patients in aged care facilities to interact with health specialists.”

COH Deputy Director and lead consultant, Associate Professor Anthony Smith, said the Health e-REGIONS project took shape following a study, funded by QGC, his team completed in August last year. The study confirmed that people living in regional and remote areas of Queensland have less equitable access to specialist services than their city cousins, with consequences for their well-being.

“The health status of the populations of towns in the Western Downs is significantly poorer and warrants the kind of immediate health intervention programs that telehealth can deliver,” Dr Smith said.

“The increasing demand for specialist care for diabetes, dermatology, geriatrics and general medicine, for example, plus the social and financial stress of travelling to Toowoomba or Brisbane and then finding suitable accommodation, can be addressed cost-effectively with telehealth measures. The research clearly shows that positive outcomes can be achieved for patients, for the town, and for healthcare budgets.”

While Dr Smith and his team work with QGC’s Sustainability Department  to set up the clinical infrastructure and training aspects of the project, UniQuest’s Consulting and Research division will continue to support the efforts of both teams to generate awareness of the initiative and promote its adoption.

QGC Vice President of Sustainability, Brett Smith said the company was pleased to be partnering with UQ in meeting the health needs of the community.

"Through the QGC Social Impact Management Plan we are committed to supporting rural health services delivery.  The Health e-REGIONS project is a signature project under this commitment and is about improving access to specialist health services for local families”, Mr Smith said.

The funding has been provided from QGC's $150 million Social Impact Management Plan, through which QGC manages social impacts and maximises benefits from the Queensland Curtis LNG Project.

The $1.4 million contract UniQuest negotiated between the COH and QGC will see the Health e-REGIONS project rolled out from January 2013 until December 2014.

About the UQ Centre for Online Health http://www.uq.edu.au/coh
The Centre for Online Health (COH) is a part of the School of Medicine within the Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Queensland. With over 12 years of experience, the COH is recognised internationally for its role in research, service delivery and education and training in the fields of telemedicine, telehealth and e-Healthcare. The COH's multidisciplinary team of clinicians, academic researchers, educators, technicians, engineers and administrators brings together a broad mix of skills. The centre's keys areas of activity include clinically focussed research; academic and vocational education and training; and the provision of clinical telemedicine services, including one of the world’s largest paediatric telemedicine services.

About QGC http://www.qgc.com.au
QGC Pty Limited (ACN: 089 642 553) is a leading Australian coal seam gas explorer and producer focused on supplying gas to domestic and international markets. QGC is establishing one of Australia’s largest capital infrastructure projects to turn Queensland’s world-class coal seam gas reserves into liquefied natural gas. Queensland Curtis LNG, a priority project for QGC, involves expanding exploration and development in southern and central Queensland and transporting gas through a 540km underground pipeline network to Curtis Island near Gladstone where it will be liquefied. 

GLOSSARY

  • Electronic Health (e-health) covers the electronic transmission of data for clinical, educational and administrative applications.
  • Telehealth is a system of care involving a range of health professionals, patients and other recipients which is delivered by telecommunications technology between two or more locations; the digital transfer of information includes audio, video and graphic data.
  • Telemedicine relates to the exchange of clinical information via telecommunications technology between two or more locations and may also include the digital transfer of audio, video and graphic data.
  • Online Health is an umbrella term for exchanging health-related information and services via the internet.