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Rural Remote Health. 2006 Jul-Sep;6(3):559. Epub 2006 Jul 5.

Maternity care in the bush: using the Internet to provide educational resources to isolated practitioners.

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Insititute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.



Telecommunication infrastructure is being rolled out across Australia with little knowledge about the uptake by health professionals in remote areas. Computer mediated communication has the potential to offer educational support to remote practitioners; however, the viability of this is uncertain. The aim of this research was to establish and evaluate an internet-based resource library targeting the needs of remote area maternity service providers.


A participatory action research (PAR) approach was used to involve remote area maternity service providers in the Northern Territory of Australia. The evaluation of the resource library included its performance on reach, agency affiliation and richness, factors identified to affect the sustainability and utility of such a resource. An additional component of the evaluation framework documented the facilitators of and barriers to using an information technology strategy to reduce the isolation of remote area maternity service providers.


Overall, the evaluation of the resource library was very positive. Feedback from the PAR team described the resource as contemporary, useful and relevant. Practitioners in leadership and education positions identified the resource library as a valuable tool that enabled them to access professional knowledge, which could then be distributed to any remote-based practitioners, who experienced difficulties with access themselves. The evaluation found that logistical issues were a major problem for potential users. Hardware inadequacies, access difficulties, unfamiliarity with computers, and a lack of management support for nursing and midwifery staff to utilise the resource, were all identified barriers. Remote-area practitioners highlighted education, training and 24 hour support as key priorities.


Results from this research clearly showed the potential of web-based resources to offer educational support through access to clinical guidelines, reports and research, thus reducing the isolation of the remote practitioner. However, it highlighted the need for clear strategic direction at policy level, whereby all stakeholders unite to synchronise the rollout of information technology infrastructure with the necessary education, training and support as an integral component.

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