'Telehealth' to improve patient care

'Telehealth' to improve patient care

Conference to focus on the end user, not selling solutions.

With a focus on the range of healthcare areas, the 1999 Health Informatics Conference (HIC) is set to become a prime opportunity for both healthcare professionals and the IT industry to collectively propel Information Management (IM) in the health sector.

HIC 99, which is hosted by the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA), aims to bring together both vendors and health professionals to share insights about the special information requirements of the health sector.

The seventh national conference, which will be held from August 29 to 31 at Hobart's West Point Conference Centre, will host more than 60 speakers from both the health and the IT industries. Seven plenary speakers will also present papers during the conference.

According to Professor Peter Yellowlees, who will deliver one of HIC 99's keynote addresses, the presence of speakers from the IT industry, such as Microsoft and WorldCare, together with academics from around the world, indicates the maturity of both sectors.

"The conference is not solely driven by either health professionals or vendors. It is an opportunity to share ideas and develop collaborative projects," he said. "The IT industry is realising it needs to understand the needs of health more, not just provide products."

"It will be a pot pourri of ideas, a forum for a range of insights and new ways of doing things," added HISA chair Dr Peter Adkins. "The focus will be on the end user - students, academics, clinicians - rather than on selling solutions."

This year's conference theme of telehealth emphasises the importance of using information management to improve patient care, not just to manage an institution's resource pool. It also recognises clinicians' increasing participation in developing the management support to allow them to perform their jobs more effectively.

Telehealth uses IT tools like videoconferencing and mobile technology to connect clinicians to remote or removed patients, so that these people can receive a better quality of care.

"Australia has an educated population, and our healthcare work is showing that distance should not limit quality of care," said Professor Yellowlees, who is part of the Queensland Telemedicine Network, the world's largest such network.

The HIC 99 exhibition will run concurrent with the conference, and will showcase some of the latest informatics tools and technology.

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