2010

Authors

  • Galen Elliott Galen Elliott
  • Anthony C. Smith Anthony C. Smith
  • Mark Bensink Mark Bensink
  • Cecil Brown Cecil Brown
  • Christine Stewart Christine Stewart
  • Chris Perry Chris Perry
  • Paul Scuffham Paul Scuffham

Objective: The increasing prevalence and earlier onset of chronic health conditions amongst Aborigil and Torres Strait Islander people has become a concerning and significant problem. Telehealth may be a useful application for the early detection, monitoring, and treatment of chronic diseases such as ear disease and vision impairment. This study evaluates whether it is feasible to integrate a mobile telemedicine-ebled ear and eye-screening service with existing community-based services for Australian indigenous children. Materials and Methods: A collaborative service was established with the local community and delivered from a van fitted with screening equipment and telemedicine capabilities. Indigenous children (0-16 years) were assessed at school by an aborigil health worker for conditions impacting hearing and vision. Screening data and video-otoscopic images were uploaded to a database and made accessible to specialists via a secure Web site. Those children who failed an ear-screening assessment, tele-otology clinics were conducted remotely by an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who reviewed cases and provided a diagnosis and treatment plan. Similarly, children who failed vision assessments were referred to an optometrist for follow-up care. Results: During the first 6 months, the service visited 12 of the 16 schools in the region, screening 442 of the 760 consented children (58%). Of the 183 (41%) children who failed ear screening, 59 were reviewed remotely by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, with 9 children booked for surgery. Three hundred and four or 41% of the consenting children completed an eye assessment, in which 46 (15%) failed and required referral to the optometrist. Conclusions: It is feasible to integrate a mobile telehealth screening service with existing community-based services to provide specialist review and treatment planning at a distance. Community consultation, engagement, and collaboration in all areas of the project have been important.