A national telemedicine network will soon improve the care of sick children throughout New Zealand. The network will link physicians, nurses, and other health professionals through state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment, allowing them to remotely discuss with each other the clinical pictures of children they are treating despite being hundreds of kilometres apart.
New Zealand's first national telemedicine link is funded by the Starship Foundation, which has launched a nationwide appeal. Children should be treated as close to their homes as possible, according to George Abbott, clinical director of paediatrics at Canterbury Health.
A pilot link established two years ago between Christchurch Hospital and the West Coast showed great potential. Some children would still need to travel to hospitals such as the Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland, but the use of telemedicine would allow them to be discharged sooner, with ongoing check-ups by video link from their home town.
Starship Foundation communications manager Andrew Young states that 54 children from the southern region were treated at Starship last year, staying on average nine days. Telemedicine would enable some of these children to leave the hospital sooner, thus reducing treatment costs. The video link also is bound to have a role in medical education.