A collaborative approach in remote Aboriginal communities: Why has telehealth worked in the Laynhapuy Homelands?

Marianne St Clair, David Murtagh, John Kelly, Jeff Cook, Linda Ford, Ruth Wallace, Kathy Guthadjaka

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)


    Aim: The aim of the project was to demonstrate that telehealth could be successfully done with good quality reliable satellite internet for three very remote communities.

    Setting and participants: This project was a collaboration between the Northern Institute (Charles Darwin University), Laynhapuy Homelands Health Service (LHS), Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance NT, eMerge, Broadband for the Bush and Telstra Health and was supported by a Regional Economic and Infrastructure grant. The three communities chosen by the Laynhapuy Health Service for telehealth implementation were Gan Gan, Yilpara and Wandawuy (that is, their most remote sites).

    Design and methods: A collaborative approach was taken with project consultation, development and implementation to demonstrate the value of telehealth and video conferencing and maximize benefits to the community. Three Gilat satellite dishes and twelve months uncontended internet connectivity were deployed in three very remote East Arnhem communities. (Contention in network terms refers to the number of people on a network link competing for the network’s limited resources. An uncontended network is one where only users from one organisation have access to the bandwidth on that private network.)Results: LHS staff now regularly use video conferencing cameras and software for telehealth. Diagnoses are being aided by less formal modes of video conferencing rather than scheduled appointment driven video conferencing tools (St Clair et al, 2018; St Clair et al., 2019). For example, clinicians are using Facetime, smart phone camera optics and digital capabilities for triage and diagnostic assessment. Anecdotally, video conferencing has proved to be a “game changer” in remote Indigenous health service delivery for many reasons, including the facilitation of joint and more informed decision making by patients, families and clinicians, and the patients being able to see familiar faces. Using videoconferencing has also resulted in more accurate assessments for evacuations and acute care retrievals, provision of access to a wider range of services, provision of training and direct supervision of staff including registrar GPs (St Clair et al., 2019). Additionally, savings to the patient travel for the last 6 months of 2018 are estimated to be in excess of $13,000 per month (St Clair & Murtagh, 2018a).

    Conclusion: Face-to-face consultation via video conferencing and direct supervision and observation of patient examinations are delivering better health outcomes for patients (St Clair et al, 2019). By showing patients and families pictures and videos from the internet, the supervising GP can demonstrate clearly what the problem is, the treatment required and opportunistically provide education for both patient and remote end clinicians (St Clair et al., 2018). Additionally, telehealth implementation has facilitated timely joint decision making for remote Aboriginal people resulting in a more positive patient outcome and crucial clinical procedures being done more expediently therefore improving the probability of survival (St Clair et al., 2019).
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2019
    Event15th National Rural Health Conference - Hotel Gran Chancellor, Hobart, Australia
    Duration: 24 Mar 201927 Mar 2019
    Conference number: 15


    Conference15th National Rural Health Conference
    Internet address


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