Prof David Jamieson is director of the Victorian node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology.
The program, TEAMSnet, will use internet and mobile technologies such as iPads and mobile phones to provide accurate, low cost eye exams and coordinated diabetes and heart care to Indigenous people in remote parts of the Northern Territory and Central Australia.
TEAMSnet will be led by Associate Professor Sven-Erik Bursell, from the University of Melbourne’s Eastern Hill Academic Centre, who ran a successful diabetes tele-health trial in the US and Canada.
“Telehealth has already significantly reduced diabetes related blindness in the US and Canada,” Associate Professor Bursell said.
“Over the past four years, 21,000 telemedicine eye exams have been conducted in 17 US states, which has led to a 51 per cent increase in laser treatments to prevent blindness.
“Results of the program conducted in the US revealed this approach cost less and saves significantly more sight than traditional eye care services.”
The Fred Hollows Foundation’s CEO, Brian Doolan, said investing in a diabetes telehealth program would provide huge benefits for Aboriginal Australians.
“Aboriginal Australian adults are three times more likely to have diabetes than other Australians, which means there is a higher risk they will develop diabetes related vision loss if the condition is not managed properly" he said.
“However, the good news is that blindness caused by diabetes can be prevented. Coordinated management and care of chronic conditions such as diabetes can reduce severe vision loss by more than 95 per cent.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in combating diabetes vision loss is that some people living in remote Australia don’t have access to regular eye exams or health care, which is why TEAMSnet will play a vital role in ensuring we get to these remote patients before it is too late.”
TEAMSnet will be trialed at four remote Indigenous sites in the Northern Territory and Central Australia. If the trial is successful, the service could be rolled out across other remote communities.
The Foundation and The University of Melbourne are working in collaboration with the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Centre for Eye Research Australia, and the University of Sydney Clinical Trials Centre and is additionally funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.