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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Burns victim treated by e-mail
Photo of the full-thickness burns
An exhaust burned the boy's leg -pic RSM press
Doctors in Australia carried out specialist burns care on a teenager over 1100kms away by using his parents' computer.

The boy, who lived in a remote area of Queensland, suffered a 2% full thickness burn on his leg from a motor bike exhaust and needed nearly five months of treatment.

But after an initial trip to the specialist burns unit in Brisbane for two skin grafts, doctors were able to monitor and care for him using a desk top scanner hooked up to the family computer.

His burn healed successfully.

Injuries

The mother of the boy, who has not been named, took pictures of his injuries every other day for eight weeks and then once a week for the next 12 weeks.

She then e-mailed them to the Brisbane specialists at the Stuart Pegg Paediatric Burns Centre who then advised them on how to care for his leg.


Distances in Australia highlight one of the most obvious reasons why online communication techniques in telehealth should play a fundamental role in the delivery of health services

Anthony Smith, of the University of Queensland,

Under Australian guidelines, all children with full-thickness burns need to be referred to a specialist unit.

But for some patients this can mean them having to fly thousands of kilometres to the specialist centre.

And although the state health department pays for the cost of flights and accommodation, parents can end up loosing financially as they spent weeks or months going to and from the hospitals.

Images

The Australian specialists say digital images and email are vital and are becoming increasingly valuable, particularly in developing countries where doctors can access specialist advice from around the world through their computers.

Anthony Smith, of the Centre for Online Health at the University of Queensland, Royal Children's Hospital, Herston, Australia, led the research.

He said the team had been delighted by the success of the digital technology, details of which were published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare.

""We were surprised by the quality of images attained.

Photograph of the boy's burns
The leg burn was full-thickness - pic RSM press

"The fact that the images were taken using a desktop scanner adds to the unique nature of the case report."

He said that in remote areas such as Queensland digital technology is vital.

"Distances in Australia highlight one of the most obvious reasons why online communication techniques in telehealth should play a fundamental role in the delivery of health services.

"Queensland covers seven times the area of the UK, is more than twice the size of Texas and five times larger than Japan.

"In Queensland, the majority of specialist health services are located along the south east coast.

"This presents a major challenge to the health department and constitutes a substantial expense related to the transport of patients from rural and remote areas who need to access these services."

See also:

01 Sep 01 | Health
07 Dec 99 | Health
06 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
19 Dec 00 | Health
29 Jun 98 | Health
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