Bairnsdale Regional Health Service (BRHS) has started to use Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles to connect those in rural areas to specialists in Victoria.
The goggles use satellite internet connection to connect patients from areas like Dargo — which sits almost 400 kilometres away from the city of Melbourne — to doctors, surgeons and specialists.
The system operates by having a nurse wear the goggles while a specialist joins an online meeting. The goggles are designed to allow both the nurse present and the remote specialist to see from the same perspective.
Both the nurse and patient are able to hear the specialist on a speaker and both clinicians use the software to share and compare notes or draw diagrams.
Nicholas Moretti, Microsoft Azure Space engineer, said satellite technology has boosted connectivity in rural communities around Australia, where it can be nearly impossible to install wireless internet.
When the community of Dargo suffered the loss of a local during the COVID-19 lockdowns, residents were able to watch the funeral online but were constantly dealing with internet dropouts.
Darin Roy from the Dargo Bush Nursing Centre said he never wants to see that happen again and added that the introduction of this new technology is embraced by many in the community.
The town of Dargo recently installed a satellite to improve the internet connection of the community in order to provide better telehealth care and to avoid situations like those during the lockdowns from happening again.
“We’ve got a nurse there who is wearing the device and they’re on that care journey with you, holding your hands,” said Roy.
The goggles also cut the costs caused by having to travel and find accommodation when seeking medical care.
Following the success that the HoloLens goggles have had in Dargo, the BRHS plans to equip five other towns including Buchan, Cann River, Ensay, Gelantipy and Swifts Creek with HoloLens units, with included upgrades to the communities’ existing satellite connections.
Dan Hookman, the chief innovation officer from Velrada who helped with the rollout of the HoloLens in Dargo, said similar technology is in use in Western Australia and the UK.
“I don’t think this is a replacement in the locations where access to those facilities and skills is a possibility, but in rural communities, it’s a game changer.”
Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.
Send Liam an email at: [email protected]
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