April 28 is World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
We look at how telehealth helps improve the safety and health outcomes of workers in some of the country’s most remote and challenging work sites.
Everyone has the right to access and be provided with a safe and healthy workplace. However, this isn’t always the case.
According to UN agency the ILO (International Labour Organization), worldwide there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.
April 28 is World Day for Safety and Health at Work and to mark the occasion, we look at how clinical telehealth technology delivers vital health services to fly-in, fly-out work teams operating in remote mining sites.
Isolated and harsh locations
Whether it’s an on-shore or off-shore site, mining teams typically work in very remote and often climatically harsh locations. Staff work long hours on compressed rosters, separated from family and social networks for possibly weeks at a time.
In these isolated, high-risk environments, an injury or serious illness can quickly result in an off-site referral and an emergency evacuation; while employees with chronic health problems such as hypertension, asthma, or diabetes require ongoing medical treatment.
Remote mine-site medics who are the first point of contact during the patient’s health journey, are required to work across a broad scope of practice that could be outside their clinical experience.
Compounding the problem of isolation, primary health services in rural and remote areas that support nearby mine sites are usually under resourced and operating with reduced access to health staff.
Seriously injured or ill workers needing a requisite standard of care will require evacuation to a hospital with a 24-hour emergency service, typically in the nearest major city that could be thousands of kilometres away. Learn more here.
To ensure the efficiency of mining operations, mine operators are seeking to minimise the risk of worker injury and illness, while simultaneously providing value in remote work sites.
The challenge is, how to ensure health services in isolated mining sites are in line with acceptable healthcare standards.
Connecting remote workers with clinical health services
The Visionflex telehealth system enhances remote employee medical services by providing an on-site clinical health solution in even the most isolated work locations.
Visionflex technology enables doctors, dentists, nurses, and allied health professionals at the far end to quickly connect with remote patients and an on-site medic to perform detailed patient clinical examinations and observations.
Visionflex’s medical devices capture high-quality images, videos, and patient vitals during a telehealth consultation. This data, and the ability to collaborate with experts, improves the quality of decisions, meaning treatment is initiated earlier and the need for unnecessary evacuations is removed.
Improving outcomes for workers and operators with telehealth technology
The Visionflex solution enables an on-site medic and patient to connect with health professionals across a diverse range of specialisations to provide diagnoses, prognosis and support for complex medical conditions and injuries. The system also supports delivery of staff health-education programs.
Telehealth delivers health services to remote staff, at the point of need. It improves outcomes for injured and sick workers, increases patient satisfaction and provides psychological support by knowing there is an additional safety network while working in a remote location.
Operators benefit from reduced lost productivity, as workers can return to work sooner, lower evacuation and transportation costs, and the associated risks with emergency patient transfers.
In the Bass Strait, ExxonMobil Australia operates 23 offshore platforms and installations,14 of which are manned.
Up to 300 personnel are living and working offshore at any one time. The platforms operate 24 hours a day and crews typically work 12-hour shifts on a seven-days-on and seven-days-off roster.
All ExxonMobil remote sites have highly competent first aid trained staff who liaise with the company’s onshore clinical staff for additional safety and health support.
ExxonMobil is using the GEIS® General Examination Camera HD across its operations in the Bass Strait to provide a detailed view of wounds, abrasions, and skin rashes during medical consultations.
“The cameras have definitely improved our service delivery in remote locations by providing clearer visuals when needed during a medical examination”
According to ExxonMobil Australia’s Managing Director Medicine and Occupational Health, Dr Marcus Hirschfield, telemedicine utilising the GEIS® camera is improving outcomes for patients and clinicians.
“The cameras have definitely improved our service delivery in remote locations by providing clearer visuals when needed during a medical examination,” said Dr Hirschfield.
“The benefit in using telemedicine that utilises the GEIS® camera, is that it provides comfort and support to both the person providing first aid and the patient, by having the visuals and the feeling of a ‘doctor/medic in the room’ rather than relying on telephone discussions.
“The higher resolution close-up views afforded by the GEIS® cameras are very helpful to our clinicians.”
Dr Hirschfield said there are also financial benefits from the use of telemedicine services in remote offshore operations “where it can be shown that potentially unnecessary onshore medical assessments, and even possibly medevacs, can be avoided”.
Visionflex’s clinical telehealth toolkit includes:
Using the ProEX, health practitioners can carry out detailed medical examinations on patients; host live video consultations; connect with colleagues and specialists over large distances; and share saved images and data. Video conferencing is transmitted via a local network, satellite and 4G data links.
Transport the ProEX system easily around the clinic with this ergonomic and easy-to-manoeuvre medical cart features sit-to-stand height adjustment, independent screen positioning, side-to-side keyboard motion and an adjustable back-tilt keyboard tray.
The ruggedised, state-of-the-art ProEX tablet is designed for field visits and asynchronous telehealth. Super-bright, touch-screen display; water resistant (IP54) and shock-proof housing. The ProEX Mobile + peripherals fit snuggly in the Backpack with built-in wheels for a portable telehealth solution.
Media and patient data are automatically synchronised between ProEX units. VF Sync enables asynchronous telehealth consultations in areas of low or no connectivity. Upon network reconnection, data automatically synchronises with the server. Network connectivity from the ProEX can be hardwired via LAN or over Wi-Fi.