Indigenous health services and cloud computing make a great combination

Rural, remote and Indigenous health services are making great gains. And the key is developing internet-based records, having good coordination among health services and staying focused on community-based care.

MMEx is a pilot program run by the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council, and the University of Western Australia. It provides an online database of patients medical records. Information about hospital visits, medications and community services can be updated by anyone granted access.

Traditional health records are paper-based and only available in individual hospitals.

This e-health system was designed by Aboriginal groups in the Kimberleys

The mobile nature of many people in this area, the remoteness from mainstream health services and lack of emergency health care facilities can make coordinated medical care very difficult.

It’s hard for city-dwellers to grasp the distances involved in rural Australia. The Kimberley’s, a region of Western Australia has a population of around 50,000. Half of those people are scattered in remote communities across an area the size of South Australia.

The MMEx system is particularly suited to the Kimberley region. The area has has vast distances between towns, and many of the population are transient.

‘The treatment program, medication and advice they’ll be getting will all be consistent’.  Dr. Trevor Lord is a doctor who tours the West Kimberleys treating remote patients. He believes the e-health system has saved lives and made coordinating medical care far easier.

Dr Lord believes the Indigenous e-health system MMEx is world class. Combined with telehealth services, MMEx is providing continuity of care for a low income population, who have previously had limited access to health services.

“In the end, what it provides is communication between healthcare teams.”

Attracting health professionals to work in rural areas is a challenge. Many hurdles exist for people already living in remote communities, who wish to train as doctors and nurses. The Australian Indigenous Doctors Association is a not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to assisting Indigenous Australians through the years of study required.

They estimate there are currently 204 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors currently registered.

Another 310 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students are studying in Australia.

AIDA provides a wide range of services including government submissions, working with educational institutions and partnerships with medical bodies.

Indigenous nurses

Debra Hunter-McCormick is a 59 year old Nykina woman. She completed a Bachelor of Applied Science – Indigenous Community Health, and an Associate Degree in Aboriginal Health at Curtin University in Perth WA. She went on to work with the Indigenous community in mental health.

She found herself frustrated by her inability to make decisions on behalf of Aboriginal clients, as she was not a  qualified case worker. Undeterred, Debra went on to complete a Social Work degree.

She encourages other Aboriginal women to study, and points out that going back into study after raising a family is possible.

You are never too old to study and learn’.

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet site is a not-for-profit service. It is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and is based at Edith Cowen University in Perth.

The HealthInfoNet site offers a great range of multi-media resources for health professionals. They produce uTube clips, posters and podcasts covering topics like diabetes, obesity, smoking, immunisation, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and nutrition.

Their promotional material features indigenous people talking about healthcare in everyday situations.

In conclusion, some Indigenous e-health services are more advanced than some expensive city health services, because they have have focused on the right things. E-health records, coordination of care, focusing on chronic disease and community-based services.

Further resources

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
Australian Indigenous Doctors Association
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations
The Lowitja Institute

© Wikihospitals March 2015