News

Better access to specialist neurological care for regional NSW


9 November 2012

Dr Michael Barnett: "It is logistically impossible for many patients with multiple sclerosis to travel to our clinic on a regular basis."
Dr Michael Barnett: "It is logistically impossible for many patients with multiple sclerosis to travel to our clinic on a regular basis."

People in regional NSW will have remote access to multiple sclerosis clinics in Sydney thanks to a new telemedicine facility in Dubbo.

The facility will improve the quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological diseases, who often find travel to be physically and mentally exhausting and, for some, unaffordable.

"It is logistically impossible for many patients with multiple sclerosis to travel to our clinic on a regular basis, potentially compromising their medical care," said Dr Michael Barnett, leading MS neurologist and researcher at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI).

The new clinic uses teleconference audiovisual technology to put patients in contact with Sydney specialists.

Patients attend their telemedicine appointments at the University of Sydney's School of Rural Health in Dubbo, with the consulting specialist located in a dedicated telemedicine room at the BMRI in Sydney. The consultations are facilitated by a rurally based and specially trained MS nurse.

The facility was established by Dr Barnett and colleagues at the BMRI in association with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Multiple Sclerosis Australia, and with support from the School of Rural Health.

The clinic will also support the teaching of rurally based junior doctors and medical students.

There are approximately 20,000 people with MS in Australia who need specialist neurological care, and in many parts of the country, neurologists are in short supply. "There are currently no subspecialty multidisciplinary MS clinics in rural areas," said Dr Barnett. "We felt it was important to establish some way of providing timely and accessible care to patients with MS in rural areas."

Patient Brenda Gordon says having consultations in Dubbo is much more convenient than going to Sydney: "I have cerebral vasculitis which needs constant monitoring and I'm on chemo. To get to Sydney my husband has to take time off work, but I can drive myself to Dubbo."

"I was very happy with the telemedicine consultation, I had Dr Barnett's undivided attention for more than an hour. Before my appointment I had the scans, then Dr Barnett showed me the results, pointing out all the relevant things from the scans," said Brenda.

Patients also have same-day access to other allied health care providers through the telemedicine link, replicating the multidisciplinary model that has become the standard of care for people with MS in larger Australian cities.


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Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au