Why The Health System Wants The NBN

Access to health services is one of the most-frequently mentioned applications for the National Broadband Network (NBN). But if a brand-new hospital gets constructed and already has fibre throughout, why does it need the NBN?

That question got put to Brendan Kelly, director ICT architecture at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, during a panel discussion at the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne today. His answer was a reminder that one of the benefits of universal broadband is that it is universal, not just down to geographic luck.

Since the Royal Children's Hospital has been entirely rebuilt, it has full fibre connectivity to other hospitals in its area, and 1GB connections to every desktop (in his colourful turn of phrase: "We wired and wirelessed it to hell and back"). But as Kelly explains, high speeds are needed to reach beyond the hospital walls:

We work with other hospitals, both metro and regional. We work with GPS and community care providers out there. We have our own staff out there as well. Our focus is to make those relationships richer. That means the sharing of high quality information to support health care more broadly, most importantly to the patient and their family. It's getting us out effectively to the boundaries of the state and beyond.

Kelly noted that a children's hospital has a largely youthful audience (in terms of patients and their parents), which also adds to the demand for efficient technology: "As a children's hospital, we have a young consumer base so the expectation [around technology] already is high and it's going to increase."

On the same panel, DBCDE first assistant secretary Keith Besgrove noted the benefits of NBN services for health in the Northern Territory and other remote regions. "Something that is often overlooked in discussions of the NBN is the provision of the interim satellite service and the future full satellite service," he said. "We're starting to look at the potential to use that satellite connectivity to deliver improved services to some of the poorest communities in Australia. Projects like Health eTowns mean the reach of medical services can be dramatically enhanced."

Besgrove also rejected suggestions the project wouldn't be embraced in indigenous communities. "We don't get any sense in the Northern Territory that there's any resistance to the technology because the benefits are so self-evident. It doesn't replace the need for face to face contact entirely but there are many instances where follow-up visits can be made using it."

NBN haters are going to hate, and I'm sure arguments over whether medical services could be delivered on the existing network or via 3G will continue. But these applications are already happening.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman visited Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.



    What a stupid question? So what if the hospital has fibre INTERNALLY? NBN is outside in the bl**dy street!

      You did actually READ the article, yes?

      If the article is 'TLDR' for your little mind, then it's probably best not to comment and make a fool of yourself (given your statement is addressed clearly within the article).

    I think the Healthcare sector needs to be more vocal about being pro NBN - if the common folk knew that there was already a use for the bandwidth the NBN provides and that thatuse will enhance or save lives there'd be a lot of pressure to keep it going even if Liberal win the next federal election. This is what really concerns me - right now if we had a liberal government the NBN would be hobbled and possibly shelved entirely.

    Guys, thats the old hospital, the new one next door looks much nicer and decidedly more high tech,

    The old site will be redeveloped into a park!

    Yeah, satellite broadband to the outback is a stellar argument in favour of FTTH in the suburbs...

      Yeah you're right. Everyone should have low bandwidth connections forever as there's no real point in having infrastructure at all. Oh wait, infrastructure IS important.

    I've worked in Healthcare (IS Vendor) and the days of text based systems are drawing to a close, so I concur, many of the latest integrated software products require a fiber backbone and SAN to work properly.

    I thought they'd need it so that it would be easier to get the whole patient medical records database thing going so instead of random GPs and hospitals having different bits of a patient's record that all of the info would be stored in a central secure 'place' and could be accessed by the appropriate people. I bet if they put in high res scans that you've had, they would need quite a good chunk of broadband

    The health industry isn't as vocal about it because they're going to have to shell out for new IT systems to live up to our expectations (which of course they won't). Being government run, much of our healthcare system has been stripped of any incentive to innovate and provide a good service to customers (us) for the past 40 years. Why do we keep perpetuating the myth that the NBN will change that?

    I think the benefits of the NBN will only reach the majority of the healthcare providers considerably after the NBN is rolled out. The amount of money and time needed to develop new generation healthcare software to take advantage of the bandwidth will be a long time off. The only advance at the moment would be telepresence and video conferencing, but even that costs lots of money.

    How surprising that an IT Director of a gold plated government run Hospital - built at a cost to the taxpayer of around $1B - would endorse the NBN? His description of the benefits is airy fairy - "make those relationships richer". What a crock.

    Call me cynically but how does an already overburden public healthcare system suddenly gain extra resources to treat these extra patients? Are they planning on closing down rural GP's and medical centres and centralising their services?

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