Photo credit – image right: Tourism NT/Rachel Stewart
Visionflex telehealth technology enhances remote medical services and the oversight of remote clinical staff. This is according to Dr John Kelly, pictured above, a rural generalist who works for an Aboriginal outstation service in the Northern Territory’s Eastern Arnhem Land.
Dr Kelly was a participant during a recent online Visionflex demonstration hosted by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). ACRRM, which provides GPs with speciality training for rural and remote practice, invited members to experience the clinical capabilities of the Visionflex telehealth system.
The demonstration provided an overview of Visionflex’s flagship products, including:
- Vision, a telehealth software platform designed specifically for health and allied health professionals;
- the desktop ProEX Telehealth Hub;
- and integrated devices and functions including otoscope, GEIS® General Examination Camera HD, and TrueSteth – a digital stethoscope function that enables stethoscope sounds and trace to be shared in real time via video conference, with remote participants able to control stethoscope filters and gain.
Real-time auscultation via telehealth
Sydney-based Dr Kelly regularly uses telehealth to connect with Northern Territory patients and colleagues. He said TrueSteth is the only digital stethoscope function he has used that actually delivers clinical quality patient health data via video conference.
He said TrueSteth also engages patients in the health process because they too can hear their own heart sounds during the consultation.
“This is the first time, in my experience, where it’s actually become practical and useful [to use a digital stethoscope via telehealth],” said Dr Kelly. “In my setting, I have outstations and the potential to train staff because they know what they’re listening to, that’s been wonderful.”
TrueSteth is accessed via the Vision software platform, which has a wide hertz range, so all stethoscope sounds – heart, lung, body – can be heard. The stethoscope trace can be simultaneously viewed on screen.
For additional context, Vision enables multiple camera feeds in a telehealth consultation. This includes room PTZ cameras, so participants can watch a clinician perform auscultation and see where the stethoscope is placed on a patient’s body.
Dr Kelly said he is considering using TrueSteth to support delivery of clinical services in remote hospitals and aged care homes when there are staffing shortages or access restrictions due to COVID-19. He said TrueSteth is also a valuable tool to train and mentor remote clinical staff.
“The up-skilling potential is wonderful,” said Dr Kelly. “I think it’s an exciting development in telehealth from that point of view.”
Remote otoscopy for healthy ears
During the webinar, there was also a demonstration of Visionflex’s digital otoscope, which enables remote doctors and clinicians to collaborate for important ear, nose, and throat examinations (ENT).
Live ENT video footage and still images can be shared in real time during a Visionflex consultation. Patient data can be stored locally on the ProEX, saved to a local network, or pushed up to an electronic health record (EHR).
Dr Kelly, who uses the Visionflex otoscope with his East Arnhem Land patients, said “the concept of tele-otoscopy is extraordinary”.
He said because tele-otoscopy allows clinicians to collaborate and watch video footage of a real-time patient examination, he has been able to train his very remote nursing staff to diagnose serious ear issues including cholesteatoma and grade-3 retraction pockets.
“To me, it should be routine to have access to a tele-otoscope because it is such a powerful thing,” said Dr Kelly.
Store-and-forward telehealth with Visionflex
Visionflex software also enables clinicians to perform store-and-forward telehealth.
Using the ProEX Telehealth Hub or the ProEX Mobile – Visionflex’s ruggedised tablet version – clinicians can perform medical rounds and field visits in areas with poor connectivity. In these situations, the ProEX saves patient data to the device, and automatically uploads to the server once connection is re-established.
Dr Kelly said he and his clinicians regularly work in remote areas with poor reception where store-and-forward functionality is “a big plus”. For example, he said in situations where high-quality images are required for diagnoses (eg dermatology), patient images can be saved to the ProEX and later shared with a specialist once the clinician re-connects to the internet.
Video conferencing performed via the ProEX can transmit across a local network, the internet, or via 3G/4G/LTE using an optional module.
All Visionflex products are IEC 60601 compliant, making them suitable for clinical medical assessments. Visionflex is also certified ISO 13485 2016 for the manufacture of non-sterile image capture and data storage systems for medical devices.
Perform clinical telehealth
Visionflex technology enables a range of other patient examinations including wound management, ultrasound, dental and endoscopy through to measuring patient vitals such as temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse oximetry, ECG, and weight. This enables telehealth to be far more clinical and comprehensive than a standard face-to-face consult.