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Satellite technology will train country doctors

Rural doctors in New South Wales (NSW) can now access the latest in medical training and professional information with ease and speed - beamed direct to their homes via satellite.

In a deal with the NSW Rural Doctors Network (NSW RDN), Optus and The Health Channel will supply and install broadband satellite internet and television receivers in over 70 doctors' homes in the state's outback.

Participating doctors will be supplied with a satellite dish, decoder box and modem, enabling them to receive regular Health Channel TV continuing medical education programs at home, as well as high-speed internet access.

Bob Murray, General Manager Satellite for Optus, said satellite technology is the natural choice for communications in rural and remote areas.

"Using satellite technology, outback doctors can access professional information where and when they need it.

"The combination of The Health Channel's broadband TV content and high-speed internet from the Optus satellites means that doctors can now stay up to date with medical information and techniques," Mr Murray said.

NSW Rural Doctors Networks' Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ian Cameron, said remote doctors would now have dramatically improved access to information.

"For many years, poor communication services have contributed to the frustration and isolation often felt by doctors living and working in rural and remote areas. This service can change that - it will enable practitioners to foster communication with colleagues, greatly reducing their sense of professional isolation.

"Doctors' families will benefit too - they can now use TV and internet services at speeds comparable with, or greater than, those enjoyed by their city counterparts," Dr Cameron said.

Director of The Health Channel, Andrew Ricker, said The Health Channel and Optus already broadcast educational programs to NSW RDN members via satellite TV.

"The new agreement furthers this existing relationship - and now The Health Channel and NSW RDN are able to explore new educational formats offered by the Optus service.

"Rural and remote doctors often work long hours with unpredictable schedules, making it important to deliver educational material in the most flexible manner possible. The service provided by The Health Channel and Optus will create new opportunities to deliver education program directly to the doctors' personal computers," Mr Ricker said.

The Optus SatWeb one-way broadband product will be used to deliver internet access, allowing download speeds comparable to cable connections - up to 400 Kbps. The Health Channel's educational broadcasts will continue to use Optus Aurora Business TV.

These services will be provided to doctors' homes in remote NSW towns like Bourke, Condobolin, Lightning Ridge, Warren and West Wyalong.

The program has been supported by the General Practice Branch of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

For more information:
Linda Collard
Optus Public Affairs
Phone: 02 9342 5045

Dr Ian Cameron
NSW Rural Doctors Network
Phone: 0419 252 460

Andrew Ricker
The Health Channel
Phone: 0414 998 304