NT Telehealth's high-definition medicarts are really CoTS
Thanks for the meaningless NBN jargon, Senator
Australia's Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy last week announced a telehealth initiative in the nation's Northern Territory.
The initiative is certainly worthy as the Territory's many remote communities are among the nation's most impoverished and least healthy places. The news that doctors can now assess patients over video links is therefore welcome.
Just how the assessments are done is, however, the kind of thing that The Reg tracks rather more keenly than polly-waffle, so we decided to chase one small item in the press release about the new program, namely the statement that the service will involve “the use of high-definition Medicarts.”
What, we wondered here in the Antipodean Eyrie, is a “high-definition Medicart”? Search engines yielded no answers at the time the release was emitted. Indeed the only results for the term at the time of writing are re-runs of the press release.
So on the off-chance that there was something interesting to be learned about the carts that might enlighten and inform readers hoping to create similar rigs, we asked the Minister's office to put us in touch with someone who might be able to tell us more.
The Minister's media folk duly did so, connecting us with Jackie Plunkett, Director of TeleHealth NT.
Despite it being a public holiday when we called Plunkett, she happily explained that the carts are commercial, off-the-shelf (CoTS), devices acquired from either Polycom or Ergotron. The former makes a device called a “Practitioner Cart” purpose-built for tele-medicine. The latter makes all manner of rolling devices designed to make PCs and peripherals portable.
Plunkett explained that her team has done some customisation work on Polycom's and Ergotron's products, based on designs for the same carts health services in Queensland and Victoria have already souped up. The Territory's carts have been modified a little further, to cope with the heat and dust found in some locations. The NT team has also added a video switching box, to enable medical imaging cameras with different outputs to feed into the outgoing video stream.
It therefore seems that while the high-definition medicarts have had some nice tweaks, they're mot a major innovation. Indeed, they're bog standard telehealth kit.
It may not seem like a crime to have summoned this piece of jargon into the public eye. But it is worth at least noting its introduction, given the government's consistent insistence that telehealth is one of the apps that justify the NBN's construction. Just a little less jargon and hype might make that claim easier to assess. ®
eHealth is not a justification for the NBN. It would have been far cheaper to simply run 1Gbps fibre to every hospital in Australia than build the NBN.
Unfortunately the more we know about the NBN, the more it seems to be all about spin rather than factual reality. This has been occurring since prior to the last election when maps were produced of areas to receive the NBN in stage 1 and now we find that some of those areas won't be covered until 2016 at the very earliest. Of the 3.5 million premises that are part of the 3 year plan ending in June 2015, NBNCo's own estimates in the latest Corporate Plan state that only 2.5 million will have the service available and 1.13 million will actually connect. The latest Corporate Plan also maintains the estimate that 50% will connect at 12/1Mbps and that in 2028 that number will drop to 40%. Hardly the 1Gbps speeds discussed at the last election.
All these tele-health services which require large amounts of bandwidth, provided by the NBN, will really revolutionise health in remote communities.
Yeah right. Remote communities aren't getting any fiber!
Its not commercially viable. Satellite will work, but not very well.
Manna from heaven (or Conroy)
It seems to be a given that any media release from the government that could in any way be construed as 'look at what good things we're doing', has to be blown up in obtuse terminology to such an extent that the second coming of $DEITY would pale in comparison. This is especially so given the ordure around the present mob in Canberra.
However it's nice to see them actually doing something positive in the part of Oz still languishing in the 3rd world.