The Welsh health minister launched the first live project of Digital Wales this week at Brecon Hospital in Powys.

Digital Powys is the first project to be rolled out under the Welsh government’s digital strategy to improve public services by joining up delivery of education, health and social care.

A key feature of the scheme is using video and phone conferencing to deliver more efficient and convenient healthcare.

“Providing more high-quality care close to home is a vital element of NHS Wales service change,” said health minister Lesley Griffiths.

“We expect to see an expansion of community services, with a renewed focus on prevention, as part of the new pattern of healthcare emerging across the country.”

Powys, which is made up of small villages and towns and includes many rural areas, will adopt video and phone conferencing to avoid long distance travel for medical consultations.

A new system to broadcast public health messages across a range of platforms – from television screens in GP surgeries and pharmacies to online and social media – will also be put into action.

“This exciting project sees rural health and technology come together to address a range of issues, from patient transport to managing mental health, leading healthy lifestyles and preventing illness,” said Mel Evans, chair of Powys Teaching Health Board.

An interactive computer mapping system to help doctors plan treatment more efficiently is also being implemented.

Another application which is being launched as part of the project, is assistive technology to “support independence” for people with long term conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Users can access the application on their smartphones, which is linked to a server, enabling a support team to provide ‘real time’ help.

Because most of Powys is mountainous, it can be hard for patients to travel to and from clinic. Griffiths said the partnership would improve patient care in these rural areas.

“This innovative partnership has the potential to be rolled out across Wales, making an impact in particular in rural areas, where cutting-edge technology will lessen the need to travel far for certain appointments.”

The Digital Wales strategy was launched by the Welsh government in 2010 and aims to make Wales a “truly digital nation” by 2020.

The framework says: “Our ambition is that public, government, health and social services are more accessible, sustainable and affordable through the innovative application of digital technologies.”

The delivery plan includes giving people access to their records through My Health Online, where they can order repeat prescriptions and book GP appointments online. This has already been rolled out in several GP practices across Wales.

NHS Wales has attempted to make great strides in improving technology in the health sector in recent years.

The NHS Wales Informatics Service issued an information services strategy earlier this year which argued that the national approach to developing IT that the country has pursued over the past five years has delivered significant benefits.

However, it added that because of financial difficulties, the NWIS in the future will be expected to deliver on “less than 1% of the public service budget.”