How do you get your blood pressure checked when you live in outback Australia and your nearest doctor is 140km away? Use a microwave wireless network.
At least that is one option for the regional community of Arkaroola in South Australia. Its residents can have their blood pressure reviewed by doctors in the state capital 700km away, through Adelaide-based wireless company, MIMP’s microwave wireless network.
Part of National Science Week, the initiative is lead by Flinders University senior lecturer and research fellow for rural, remote and humanitarian telecommunications, Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, who said the event aimed to show locals what can be achieved via telehealth with existing infrastructure.
“The initiative looks to address the pressing problem for people in remote areas of access to health services for routine diagnosis. By showing them how easy and effective it is to use the service, we hope they’ll engage with the concept and embrace it locally,” he said.
The network’s extension to Arkaroola followed the deployment in 2012 of a 20 megabit per second (Mbps), full-duplex Internet connection between Adelaide and a mine in the Northern Flinders Ranges.
After a geographic survey, MIMP then deployed a 187km long microwave wireless network, using three towers, to connect Adelaide to Wilpena Pound and the mine.
MIMP upgraded the network to 30Mb/s in 2013 so that it could link in the 610 square kilometre Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a location known for poor connectivity.
MIMP chief executive, Allan Aitchison, said the company connected Arkaroola as part of its corporate social responsibility.
“We used to visit Arkaroola all the time and the community would complain that they could not get the Internet, so I said ‘we’ll see about that’,” he said.
According to MIMP, Arkaroola residents and visitors have enjoyed faster broadband speeds since the connection.
“It’s awesome to see Dr Paul and his team showing locals how to harness our network to use telehealth to access a professional diagnosis without having to drive for hours,” Aitchison said.
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary owner, Marg Sprigg, described the telehealth event was a fantastic initiative for her community.
“Our nearest doctor is 140km away at Leigh Creek, which is shutting down in November,” she said.
“After that, the nearest A&E hospital is 400km away in Port Augusta, so having access to a telehealth service could mean the difference between life and death. This telehealth workshop, using the MIMP network, is showing us the way of the future, making sure we have immediate access to diagnostic advice while we wait for the Flying Doctor to arrive.”
MIMP plans to expand its network to other regional communities including Nepabunna located 623 km from Adelaide.