February 24, 2024

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Digital AMR Data Enhances Remote Care in Australia

In the ongoing battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), health professionals in regional Australia are grappling with challenges unique to their geographic locations. The rise of AMR poses a threat to the effectiveness of antibiotics, once hailed as life-saving treatments for infections. However, the increasing resistance of microorganisms to conventional treatments, including antibiotics, has led to a complex scenario where choosing the right drug for the right infection at the right time has become more challenging than ever.

Image Credits: CSIRO, Press Release

In remote and rural areas of Australia, where access to timely medical care is often constrained, the situation is exacerbated. The conventional method of sending patient samples to pathology labs for testing to determine the most effective antimicrobial agents can take days, leading to delays in treatment. The lack of comprehensive data on AMR patterns in these regions further complicates the decision-making process for health professionals, potentially resulting in the prescription of ineffective antibiotics and contributing to the ongoing problem of antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Teresa Wozniak, leader of the Digital Solutions for AMR (DS4AMR) team, is spearheading an innovative initiative to address these challenges. Recognising the health and healthcare disparities in Australia, particularly in regional and remote areas, Dr Wozniak and her team have developed HOTspots—an antimicrobial resistance surveillance, mitigation, and education programme.

HOTspots leverages technology to collect and analyse AMR data from diverse healthcare settings across northern Australia, including densely populated regions and more remote areas. This initiative aims to provide region-specific data on antimicrobial resistance patterns, offering crucial insights for health professionals at the point of care.

A pharmacist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital stressed the potential impact of HOTspots on patient outcomes. By utilising specific data relevant to a patient’s location, even in remote areas, health professionals can optimise care and make informed decisions about antibiotic prescriptions.

The programme utilises an interactive digital platform to display the collected data, ensuring that clinicians, researchers, and policymakers have access to accurate and up-to-date information. This platform serves as a valuable tool for understanding the varying levels of antimicrobial resistance in different regions, empowering healthcare providers to tailor their treatment approaches accordingly.

Anne Klenitz, a Senior Rural Medical Practitioner in Remote Health, emphasised the significance of having region-specific data. Given the vast geographical coverage that healthcare providers in remote areas handle, having access to data specific to each region becomes instrumental in delivering effective medical care.

Collaboration with over 200 primary health clinics and hospitals is a key aspect of the HOTspots programme. Dr Wozniak underscores the importance of building strong relationships and partnerships with local clinicians and policymakers, highlighting that the programme’s inception was driven by the needs identified on the ground.

In addition to data collection, the HOTspots programme includes an education component. Health professionals in affected areas can undergo Comprehensive Continuing Professional (CCP)-accredited training on antimicrobial resistance as part of their ongoing professional development. The programme is also involved with the Australian Antimicrobial Academy, providing skills training related to antibiotic use, auditing, stewardship, surveillance, and resistance for health workers in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

Amy Legg expresses optimism about the potential of HOTspots to encourage the effective use of AMR information. With robust data at their disposal, health professionals can drive actionable strategies to combat AMR, ensuring that the mandated reporting on antimicrobial resistance patterns translates into tangible guidelines for medical practice.

Branwen Morgan, leader of CSIRO’s Minimising Antimicrobial Resistance mission, emphasises the importance of access to data in responding holistically and effectively to AMR. She highlights the need for an enabling ecosystem with appropriate funding and policies to ensure that solutions devised to combat AMR have the desired impact.

Looking ahead, Dr Wozniak and her team aim to expand the geographical reach of the HOTspots programme beyond northern Australia. They envision the HOTspots app serving as a national atlas for antimicrobial resistance, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of AMR patterns across the entire country.

Source: https://www.csiro.au/en/news/All/Articles/2024/January/AMR-in-remote-and-regional-areas

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