Currently there is a two year wait list to see an Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist in the Hunter New England district, the largest health district in NSW with one ENT specialist clinic. Lack of access to specialist health care creates a significant disparity in health outcomes for Indigenous and rural patients. Serious health complications, including deafness lead to socioeconomic disadvantage.

This HMRI project will increase access to ENT specialists and services by introducing an innovative ENT telehealth assessment method. The equipment we are requesting in this application will allow ENT specialists to remotely assess patients efficiently and rapidly.

Rural health practitioners from Aboriginal Medical Services and the Rural Doctors Network will conduct ENT audiograms following training in audiometrial proficiency to detect, treat and manage ear disease.

Evaluation of this method and equipment using evidence-based results will enable a potential rollout to other regions across Australia.

As of December 2017 over 3,700 patients (mainly children) are waiting 2 years, on average, for an ENT specialist appointment in the Hunter New England region. This  equipment and method of assessment will at a minimum triple the number of patients seen by ENT specialists.

Chronic Ear disease is ten times higher in Aboriginal than non Aboriginal populations and can cause deafness if untreated. It is most prevalent in early childhood and is a major contributing health factor in Aboriginal Australian's quality of life.

With no ENT specialists (only 3 annual rural clinics with visiting ENT specialists), families make a 1,000km return journey to see an ENT specialist, after an average two year wait. There is a resulting increase in chronic ear disease conditions leading to permanent partial or full deafness. This has a devastating impact on education, learning, social skills development and delayed/impaired speech development of these children.

Project type 
Equipment Grant
Year of funding