UQ’s Centre for Online Health (COH) is researching the potential benefits of using telemedicine to help with the care of critically ill children and their families across Queensland. The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) project is led by Dr Nigel Armfield, who has recieved funding from Coles to provide valuable research into telepaediatric critical care.
There are over 60,000 births per year, many of these in rural and remote Queensland, critical care paediatric telemedicine may help to provide rapid access to specialist health care. With only two specialist children’s hospitals in Queensland – both in Brisbane, telemedicine might be able to help with the care of critically ill children.
Building on previous successful work with telemedicine for newborns, this project will link five regional Queensland hospitals to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Brisbane and allow specialist advice for the state’s sickest children to be provided at a distance.
Unlike scheduled care, with acute care, time and quality of clinical information is of the essence. Queensland’s geography means that, for some families, rapid access to specialist health care for their children is simply unavailable. Telepaediatric critical care may be a way of proving a more complete picture of a child’s condition and it may also reduce the delays in providing specialist advice. It could also play a role in efficiently managing emergency retrieval of children to the children’s hospital for specialist care.
Telemedicine might be able to help in some cases. It may be that transporting of the child may be avoided and that care continues to be provided close to home. Research will be conducted to see whether telemedicine has clinical and economic benefits over conventional care. If such benefits can be shown then it will have implications for the way clinicians in rural and remote areas are supported in caring for critically ill children and their families in the future.
Real-time telemedicine links from the PICU and peripheral hospitals may:
Provide a more complete clinical picture than available by telephone alone
Allow more informed and timely intervention
In some cases, avoid the need for retrieval to the RCH, allowing children to be cared for close to their families and friends
Improve outcomes for children
Save money through avoided retrieval and unnecessary admission to the RCH