Teleradiology in New Zealand focuses on pediatrics

October 14, 2002

New Zealand is poised to inaugurate its first national telemedicine service, which will focus on a pediatric link spanning metropolitan, regional, and remote parts of the country. The service will allow off-site physicians to view diagnostic images and

New Zealand is poised to inaugurate its first national telemedicine service, which will focus on a pediatric link spanning metropolitan, regional, and remote parts of the country. The service will allow off-site physicians to view diagnostic images and observe rounds.

The project, called the New Zealand TelePediatric Service, is set to go live at 11 hospitals nationwide early next year, according to project officials. The service is likely to become a telemedicine model for other specialties beyond pediatrics.

The telepediatric service hopes to provide a number of advantages, including:

?Substantially reducing the time and expense for patients who must travel to receive specialist healthcare.
?Drawing on expert healthcare services by linking remote sites with key medical centers for long-distance evaluation by appropriate medical specialists.
?Improving medical education for healthcare professionals; where grand rounds, teaching, or clinical sessions are linked to several hospitals, the availability of expertise may prove invaluable for patients and healthcare professionals alike.


"Initially, we are connecting 10 district health boards with the objective to establish the service as a vital component of pediatric medicine," said Simon Hayden, who is directing management of the network during start-up and initial operation. "Once the usage of the service has become a core competency for regional hospitals, we intend to connect as many centers as possible, to have a truly national telepediatric service."

The service was initiated using ISDN (integrated services digital network), but due to the potential running costs associated with ISDN, organizers have decided to use an IP (Internet protocol)-based network.

"A main reason is that there is a monthly flat fee with no additional call charges, unlike ISDN, which has a monthly fee with call charges additional," Hayden said.

Clinical staff from the various tertiary centers currently provide outreach services to surrounding communities. Children who require hospital admission are managed locally or transferred to the major centers. With ongoing specialist support, many of these admissions could be managed locally by telepediatrics.

A number of provincial communities have difficulty attracting pediatric health practitioners because of distance, isolation from colleagues, and an inadequate local critical mass to support them personally and professionally, Hayden said.

"Telepediatrics provides a means of addressing this professional isolation," he said.