HELLO DOC: Aiden Watt (right) in Ballina uses new technology to have his pacemaker checked out by cardiologist Dr John Meulet who is in his Gold Coast office and visble on the screen at left.
HELLO DOC: Aiden Watt (right) in Ballina uses new technology to have his pacemaker checked out by cardiologist Dr John Meulet who is in his Gold Coast office and visble on the screen at left. Graham Broadhead

Computer gets to the heart

AIDEN Watt doesn't own a mobile phone and he doesn't surf the internet - but the 79-year-old can see the value in new communications technology.

That's because the Goonellabah man visited a cardiologist at the Ballina Day Surgery yesterday to have his pacemaker checked out - and the doctor wasn't there.

Dr John Meulet was at The Cardiac Centre on the Gold Coast - yet he had access to all the data at the ready from the pacemaker Mr Watt had fitted five years ago and spoke with his patient via the computer-based video communication technology, Skype.

This was the first time the CareLink Express Service was being used anywhere in the world, Dr Meulet said.

It's taken about five years to develop the remote technology in which patients with Meditronic cardiac devices such as pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators can have the readings from their device transmitted to a specialist, who can then suggest adjustments that need to be made to a local clinician.

For Mr Watt, that means he can travel to The Cardiac Centre's Ballina clinic if he feels something is not right with his pacemaker and for his regular check-ups rather than travelling to the Gold Coast and still be able to access specialist advice.

"It's much closer to home," he said.

The technology can be used if Mr Watt has to go to an emergency department in a hospital, which can save him time instead of waiting for a specialist.

But the new technology doesn't cost Mr Watt a cent.

Dr Meulet said the new technology "has the potential to significantly impact our efforts, reduce costs for our clinic and for our patients".

"Incorporating CareLink Express into our hospital will enable us to provide better service to our cardiac device patients by providing them faster access to care, while improving our patient flow and decreasing costs related to delays that occur while waiting for device checks to be completed," he said.

But Mr Watt still has no plans to get a mobile phone, or use the internet.



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