Trying out telehealth

Baptist Community Services NSW & ACT have released the results of their 18-month telehealth trial.

By Stephen Easton

Baptist Community Services (BCS) today announced overwhelmingly positive results from an 18 month-long trial of telehealth equipment, involving clients of a government-funded hospital and residential aged care avoidance program living in Canberra.

The trial, conducted in partnership with Southern Cross University and Tunstall Healthcare, gave telehealth equipment to some BCS clients taking part in the Transition Care Program to see how easily they could use the devices and if their quality of life was improved.

According to BCS manager of research and development, Brendan Moore, several positive results from the trial would help strengthen the case for the widespread adoption of telehealth equipment, which monitors a person’s vital signs to support primary healthcare and help keep them out of hospital or residential aged care.

“What we found was that older people had a positive experience of usage and that their health didn’t deteriorate either – that was a distinct positive,” he said. “[The trial] also shifted some attitudes that older people wouldn’t be able or interested in using that sort of equipment.”

“One important finding was improved feelings of health, safety, security and overall wellbeing, regardless of the person’s diagnosis, which varied quite a bit.

“Another key finding, in terms of liaison with GPs and working out a model that might work for them, is the benefits of a nurse-led case management system that funnels the information to nurses, who make analyses and decisions prior to contacting the GP.”

Mr Moore said the doctors involved in the trial did not want to receive all the raw information captured by the telehealth devices, which includes data like the patient’s blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, but strongly preferred having a nurse to filter out just what might be a cause for concern.

“Also, clients didn’t need a carer in terms of helping them to use the equipment,” he added, explaining that this meant telehealth also increased independence, by allowing the clients to influence their own health, safety and security.

The GPs involved in the trial were not paid for their services, which Mr Moore confirmed had meant some did not particpate. This meant some of the Transition Care Program clients who were approached were unable to participate in the trial, because the doctor’s opinion on the information is a critical part of the system.

Currently, the Medicare Benefits Scheme does not provide rebates for doctors to conduct telehealth consultations, although the chorus of voices from the health, aged care and information technology sectors calling for this to be changed continues to grow.

Members of the study team hope the results will significantly improve the health and aged care systems, particularly given Australia’s small population and large geographical area. BCS Chief Executive, Ross Low, praised the project’s benefits for both the organisation and the industry.

”The opportunity to conduct this research with clients from our Transition Aged Care programs has been of tremendous benefit to BCS and we are excited about the contribution it will make to the health and aged care industries”, he said.

”The findings of this research will assist health and aged care providers to understand how to incorporate telehealth into their delivery of care to older people. This is important as the research has shown that telehealth can help support older people to continue to live in their own homes safely, as well as improving their health and wellbeing.”

Tags: aged-care, ageing, baptist-community-services, bcs-nsw-act, brendan-moore, community-aged-care, community-care, elizabeth-byrne, home-aged-care, home-care, southern-cross-university, telehealth, telehealth-trial, transition-care-program, tunstall-healthcare,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *