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NT Telehealth's high-definition medicarts are really CoTS

Thanks for the meaningless NBN jargon, Senator

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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. ®

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