Above: A telehealth video consultation facility at the Orana Lutheran Complex.
The Orana Lutheran Complex near Kingaroy in Queensland has embraced video consultations, as a way of giving residents of the nonprofit retirement village easier access to medical specialists.
Orana’s general manager, Richard Fahy, said one of the main benefits for residents was being able to access specialists Australia-wide without getting tired and distressed.
“It is not bound by geography, so we can set up meetings with specialists in Sydney if we like,” Mr Fahy said in a statement.
“Telehealth equates to less traveling time, less stress and anxiety on families, less pressure on us to organise specialist appointments and better access to general practitioners to provide better care pathways.”
Richard said he felt excited Orana was a pioneer in the residential aged care sector, and that with the infrastructure now in place, it would soon become a “fully-fledged service” in the near future. A resident recently consulted with a specialist in Toowoomba using the new technology.
“Our training module linked up with a psychogeriatrician who provided assistance for one of our residents who has dementia. It was a very simple process where the resident was with her family and they found it a really positive experience.”
Anne Gunn, the director of nursing at the independent living complex, said she was impressed by the first video consultation she had seen, and that she hoped Orana would become a “hub for telehealth”.
“The resident could see the doctor on the screen and found the session quite easy to follow. Even though she has dementia it didn’t create confusion,” Ms Gunn said.
“This video conferencing cuts down on the transport time and organising family to transport the resident to a specialist which is quite an effort for an older person. Translated into aged care it is certainly of benefit if GPs come on board and are open to this type of consultation.
“People in the community, allied health professionals and referred patients could come here to use the Telehealth facility,” she said. “Increased medical and health services in this area can only be a good thing.”
According to Lutheran Community Care (LCC), which owns Orana, the facility received a $6,000 Telehealth On-Board Incentive from Medicare to install the Microsoft Lync system that is used for the consultations.
The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine’s eHealth strategic programs manager, Vicki Sheedy, said she was pleased to see Orana had implemented the innovative technology, according to the statement released by LCC.
“Orana had indicated an interest in being involved in TeleHealth and as [they are] an aged care provider in a rural community, we were happy to respond to that,” Ms Sheedy said.
“It is so good to see a rural health service at the forefront of adapting to and adopting new technology to improve the care of the residents.
“Orana ensured security and privacy … and they liaised with the resident and family to make sure they were happy, and established an appropriate site for the consultation to occur.”
Ms Sheedy said the facility had also “respected the existing relationship with the GP and the referral pattern to the Toowoomba based specialist [and] were very careful in selecting the right resident where this sort of technology is appropriate to use.”
RDNS Nurses take telehealth lead
In Victoria, the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) has just begun a large scale telehealth project that will see video conferencing used by community nurses to replace some home visits.
The $1.2 million project, called ‘Healthy, Happy and at Home’, will be evaluated by researchers from La Trobe University, with the first results expected in about six months. It was funded by the Victorian Government as a Broadband Enabled Innovation Project (BEIP) and received additional funding from RDNS, Telstra, Healthe Tech and the university.
According to RDNS, the video consultations will initially be used for monitoring medications, allowing the nurse to see the client take the correct tablets and dosages.
But it is planned that eventually, clients will be able to send the RDNS nurses vital information such as their blood pressure, blood-glucose levels and weight via the technology. This information will then be updated in the RDNS system, allowing immediate action to be taken if there are anomalies or variances.
Although the telehealth consultations are designed to assist with client’s wellbeing and medication routines, the home nursing provider said they will not replace all home visits.