The NSW government has announced that it will invest AU$10 million in a mobile stroke unit (MSU) to enable clinicians to diagnose and treat stroke patients while they are en route to the hospital.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard explained that the pilot MSU features a portable CT scanner and would link into existing telemedicine systems to enable online, real-time communication with NSW Telestroke Service specialists via video conferencing to ensure stroke patients can be treated while in an ambulance.
"A radiographer in the MSU will relay CT scans to telestroke specialists, who identify the type of stroke and then advise MSU staff of the treatment plan," he said.
"The two main types of stroke require different treatments and a CT scan is vital to identify the course of action but until now, CT scanners were only found in hospitals."
As part of the program, the state government anticipates introducing a mobile brain perfusion CT technology, which is currently being developed in Europe, for 2022.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet touted the MSU would be the "first of its kind in NSW and only the third in operation in the southern hemisphere".
The funding for the MSU is part of the 2020-21 NSW Budget being delivered tomorrow.
See also: How NSW Health used tech to respond to COVID-19
The uptake of telehealth services in Australia has grown significantly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal Department of Health previously revealed that since telehealth services were made available to all Australians in March, approximately 28 million COVID-19 telehealth services were provided to 10.15 million patients by 76,400 providers as of the end of August.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) in July threw its support behind making telehealth a lasting feature of Australia's health system, even once COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
"While the benefits of telehealth extend beyond mere cost savings, the permanent adoption of telehealth will reduce costs across the health system while improving patient outcomes," the AMA said at the time.
Last week, the NSW government allocated AU$700 million to lift the state digital capabilities of regional and remote education, as well as enhance the state's cybersecurity, NSW Courts, and e-planning.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the funding is part of the state government's AU$1.6 billion Digital Restart Fund.
"Streamlining and enhancing our digital capabilities improves efficiencies, makes our lives simpler and ultimately saves everyone time and money," she said.