About the Tool
In collaboration with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide, and the South Australian Aboriginal Chronic Disease Consortium, we have developed a virtual reality (VR) education program for rural health practitioners focused on improving the diagnosis of diabetes-related foot complications (DRFCs) within the Indigenous community.
Diabetes-related foot complications in Australia cause an estimated 1700 deaths and 4400 lower limb amputations, costing the health system $1.6 billion. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a 3- to 6-fold increased risk of experiencing DRFCs and up to 30 times the rates of amputation as a result of DRFCs. Patients living in remote locations are also disproportionately affected by DRFCs, with amputation rates more than ten times higher in remote South Australia than in Adelaide. Delays in, or inability to access expert assessment and management, and fear of leaving the home community for care are key drivers of poor outcomes. Forcing Aboriginal people to visit metropolitan services for expert care imposes stress, removes them from their community, and complicates continuity of care on their return to country.
Our project team represents a multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial partnership with broad clinical, research, health system and policy expertise to ensure the integration of epidemiological evidence, health policies, clinical pathways and procedures. The team comprises members of a broad clinical research collective located at the world-class Adelaide Health Precinct. Our team has a history of excellence in culturally-appropriate service delivery to community areas in South Australia, with existing relationships in the community-controlled sector and regional health services. We focus on transferring best-practice skills into Aboriginal community-controlled services, including by supporting the Aboriginal workforce.
Our team of engineers, artists and designers built the entire VR application from character and environment modelling and texturing, to gameplay mechanics and animations. We carried out thorough evaluative playtests with our collaborators to iteratively develop the tool, ensuring that it was exactly what was required to be most beneficial to the end-users.
The development of culturally-appropriate telehealth services for DRFCs with Aboriginal leadership has the potential to increase the uptake of preventive and acute care in country and metropolitan health services during the implementation phase of the project and into the future. If the outcomes of the education training lead to improved community wound management relative to traditional training methods, the project will shape the way in which the prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetes-related foot disease are delivered, responding to service and workforce gaps to reduce inequity in outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The project team is coordinating with three regional Aboriginal health services (Ceduna [Yadu Aboriginal Health Service]; Port Augusta [Pika Wiya]); and Murray Bridge [Moorundi]) to roll out and test this training program.