Living in a regional or remote location shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing quality health care. The staff at Adelaide Hills O&G are determined to ensure that it’s not.
A woman-centred, multidisciplinary practice offering specialist obstetrics and gynaecology services to rural South Australians, the Mount Barker-based team firmly believe digital innovation in medicine can decrease service disparities in regional areas.
Specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Melanie Johnson, says that’s the rationale behind plans to secure a state-of-the-art digitally capable ultrasound machine.
The practice will use the GE Voluson E10 ultrasound to allow real-time scanning to be performed onsite and streamed to specialist sonologists, radiologists and maternal foetal medicine specialists via its existing services over the nbnTM network.*
This will help ensure mothers living in rural areas that have high risk pregnancies or those requiring highly technical ultrasounds will no longer have to travel long distances to the city to meet appointments.
‘At the moment, women in the Adelaide Hills need to travel to Adelaide for higher quality tertiary level ultrasound,’ said Melanie.
‘That’s because there’s no specific women’s health sonographers in Mount Barker or the Adelaide Hills.’
It’s why gaining access to a digitally capable ultrasound machine is a game changer.
‘If we had an ultrasound machine that could link in with the digital network via [our services over] the nbnTM [network] and transmit that information in real time, then the specialists in Adelaide can see those images and then report on them without the need for the women to travel or for the radiologist to travel to the Adelaide Hills,’ said Melanie.
‘We’re just trying to centralise care for women when it’s already tricky for some of them to get to us in the first place.’
While more convenient and equitable for patients, medical accuracy has also been a driving factor in embracing digital medicine.
‘I guess we started looking into buying an ultrasound machine because we had a few incidences where the reporting of imaging wasn’t as accurate as it could be with local non-specialist services and we make medical decisions based on those reports which may have resulted in some less-than-ideal outcomes,’ she said.
These mainly include sending some expectant mothers to Adelaide to give birth when in hindsight they could have attended the local hospital at Mount Barker instead.
Unnecessary travel, whether for scans or to give birth, in turn places undue stress on women and their families.
‘A trip into Adelaide for a weekly scan could take say four or five hours by the time you go down, have the scan and wait,’ said Melanie.
‘So, having half a day out of the workforce or child rearing responsibilities has a huge economic impact on local women.’
‘Being able to streamline things for them as much as possible is going to have significant benefits for the family unit and mum as well.’
Melanie says digital innovation in medicine, supported in this case by services over the nbnTM network, is crucial to overcoming the tyranny of distance for rural communities. The GE Voluson E10 ultrasound machine is just one example.
’It would never have been possible otherwise,’ she said. ‘The images themselves are such a high definition that you need to be able to transmit huge amounts of data really quickly to be able to utilise this function.’
The purchase of the digital ultrasound has been made possible courtesy of $10,000 awarded under the Innovate with nbnTM Grants Program.
Part of nbn’s commitment to regional and remote Australia, the partnership with the Regional Australia Institute offered grants totalling $95,000 across agriculture, the arts, education, health, Indigenous business, tourism and women in regional business.
The program aimed to help regional tech businesses, such as Adelaide Hills O&G, transform their ideas into game-changing achievements. For Dr Johnson and their team, that means better outcomes for patients.
‘I think it’s just about picking up more abnormalities where we can intervene and improve the outcomes for the pregnancy and the babies and also preventing women having to travel for these high-risk pregnancies,’ she says.
‘At the moment, Dr Heather Waterfall and I have the capability, because we’re specialists, to deal with higher-risk pregnancies but we’re only as good as the services we can access locally.’
‘Having really high-quality scans lets us keep more women locally for most of their care.’
For more of Melanie's story, listen to our podcast here.
*nbn is very happy with Adelaide Hills O&G’s experience with the nbn™ broadband access network. Of course, end customer experiences may vary. An end customer’s experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ broadband access network, depends on the nbn™ access network technology and configuration over which services are delivered to their premises, whether they are using the internet during the busy period, and some factors outside of nbn’s control (like their equipment quality, software, chosen broadband plan, signal reception, or how their provider designs its network). Speeds may also be impacted by the number of concurrent users on the nbn™ Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods. Sky Muster™ satellite end customers may also experience latency.