Above: Associate Professor Victoria Traynor from the University of Wollongong presents research findings at the seminar, The Future of Continence Management, hosted by Simavita.
By Stephen Easton
A clinical trial in a Melbourne nursing home has demonstrated significant benefits from Simavita’s Smart Incontinence Management (SIM) system, and it also has the tick of approval from a UK professor of incontinence technology.
University of Wollongong associate professor of aged care, Dr Victoria Traynor, reported the main findings from two continence studies at a recent breakfast seminar in Sydney, organised by Simavita to showcase the effectiveness of their product.
The first study investigated current practice through a survey of 144 registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers from five nursing homes, as well as one-on-one interviews with 23 of the personal care workers.
The second trialled the SIM system, and found it led to vast improvements on current practice, when used with 32 typical high care residents in a large Melbourne nursing home.
Above: The SIM system uses wireless electronic devices to record episodes of incontinence, allowing quick response and better continence management planning (zoom in on browser for detail).
Summarising the findings from the two projects, Dr Traynor said the SIM system had made significant improvements to measurable continence outcomes, most notably an increase in successful use of the toilet.
“We know the current manual assessment and management practises need to be improved, to improve the quality of life of older people with incontinence problems,” the professor said.
“The new evidence from the SIM device suggests that [when implemented] older people experience fewer episodes of incontinence, and the health problems associated with that. The family members are less distressed and more confident in the care provided by care homes, and the staff are motivated about improving continence care by the excitement generated by using a telemonitoring system.”
She also related examples of positive testimonials from staff and the family members of residents, which she said demonstrated belief and trust in the high-tech solution on the part of key stakeholders.
“One [manager from a participating facility] mentioned that [care staff] were excited about continence care for the first time. They were queuing up to attend the training sessions, whereas previously the continence sessions hadn’t been a priority of theirs.”
Above: Associate Professor Victoria Traynor, Simavita CEO Phillipa Lewis and Professor Alan Cottenden of University College London.
Dr Traynor, the associate director of the NSW & ACT Dementia Training Study Centre, said that continence assessments required under the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) system were being carried out inconsistently, effective care plans were very difficult to devise, and that staffing levels were also a big concern.
“In the interviews, [personal care workers] told us that accurate prescribing of toilet events is particularly unreliable,” Dr Traynor said. “Because we can’t really know when a person has had an episode of incontinence, actually prescribing a really good management plan is not easy to do.”
The workforce, she said, was a challenge for aged care providers in many countries, with many being unable to devote enough staff time to providing best practice continence care.
“[A nursing home manager] and I were talking about the number of times a day a person might need to be assisted to go to the toilet, and they suggested three times,” Dr Traynor said.
“I thought, ‘That’s not very many,’ and their response was: ‘That’s a huge number of people to manage in my care home.’
“The manager’s response is a labour force response, whereas from a best practice perspective, we’re thinking about the needs of the individual, so this is a systemic problem and any way of assisting with that would be beneficial for the residents and for the care homes.
“We know that ‘toilet rounds’ remain the default position – lots of older people taken to the toilet at the same time, regardless of what their individual needs are.”
As well as improving the quality of continence management, the number of caregivers involved in urinary incontinence care was also reduced when the SIM device was implemented.
“Now obviously,” Dr Traynor said, “that’s going to make the managers happy, it’s going to make the government a little bit happier as well, and also the care staff can use their time more productively and do other more meaningful tasks, [like having] more interaction with the residents.”
Above: Professor Alan Cottenden.
Professor Alan Cottenden, an expert on incontinence technology from University College London, also gave his support to the SIM system, during his opening presentation on advances in the development of continence aids over the past thirty years.
The demand for evidence-based care was increasing, he said, and companies aiming to produce a superior product had to demonstrate the science behind them, and their real benefits, to be successful in the health sector.
“…I’ve been involved with Simavita for about five years,” Professor Cottenden said. “I applaud these guys for taking a real problem and trying to do something about it. …I think they’re addressing a real need in very sensible ways.”
Grant applications have been submitted for funding to undertake a larger study of the value of the SIM system, including an in-depth economic analysis, which could include some collaboration with reserachers from Germany, Dr Traynor said.