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Disease updates at your fingertips online

POOLING information from 80 doctors and specialists throughout Australia, a Western Australian based not-for-profit organisation is providing Australia’s only up-to- date online disease information resource for medical professionals and patients.

Last week, in response to an overwhelming number of inquiries about the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Virtual Medical Centre Group (VMC) launched the second of 14 planned interconnected online medical centres to address the demand for information on infectious disease.

virtualinfectioncentre.com comprises specific infection alerts, disease information, related drugs and treatment for both the professional medical community and general public.

The site is updated every 12 hours with the latest on major health and infection crises.

VMC founder and palliative care specialist Dr Andrew Dean said the organisation had planned to launch the site in June with its other online medical centres currently in construction.

“We had 240 requests last week on SARS, so we decided to launch it although it is not yet complete,” he said.

“We have got the support of key infectious disease consultants from the States and Territories.”

Dr Dean said the site aimed to filter out the sensationalist information and present the facts pertaining to the SARS crisis.

“Our team are dedicated professionals and are providing the highest level of information on SARS as it becomes available,” he said.

VMC’s showcase online medical centre resource, virtualcancercentre.com, was launched in October last year and currently receives about 340,000 hits a month.

Funded and established by Dr Dean and a friend, Polynesian Black Pearls proprietor Wayne Hughes, who lost a sister to cancer, VMC aims to provide the latest medical information and technology for the people who need it.

Two years ago, through his medical practice, Dr Dean recognised an increasing need for a credible online medical resource to provide patients with the latest information about their ailments

Dr Dean said from that, 2001 to 2002, patient requests for medical information on the Internet rose from 18 per cent to 72 per cent.

“People have a real need for medical information, and by providing the right information we are trying to empower them,” he told WA Business News.

Dr Dean said it was difficult even for a medical professional to sift through the medical information contained on the net, and that a one-stop information shop relevant to Australians was required.

“I’d say 18 months to two years ago I had absolutely no idea of how much I had bitten off,” he said.

“I think the combination of my medical background and Wayne Hughes’ business background helped it get off the ground.”

Dr Dean said VMC was attracting the attention of health departments and universities as a forum to post medical research and current lists of treatment trials.

VMC is partially funded by donations from pharmaceutical companies and is applying for a number of grants and is seeking Federal funding. 

“I am confident of securing enough funding for the long term,” Dr Dean said.

“I see it evolving rapidly with medical technology.  People’s need for information will grow with time, such is the nature of our society.”

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