An aged care and retirement living provider in the Australian Capital Territory is trialling technology that allows general practitioners to conduct physical examinations virtually.

Goodwin Aged Care Services and Next Practice Deakin’s three-month pilot aims to expand telehealth to tele-examination to make GP and medical examinations more accessible to seniors.

The pilot involves 100 aged care recipients from Goodwin’s David Harper House residents and home care clients.

TytoCare has developed the technology, which includes a handheld examination kit that allows registered nurses to access a suite of tools to facilitate easy examination of residents, and GPs to examine a residents’ lungs, heart, throat, skin, ears, nose, abdomen and temperature in real-time.

The device is controlled by GPs virtually through a smartphone or tablet with on-screen instructions to guide RNs on where to place the device.

Goodwin Aged Care Services executive manager clinical and health services Tamra MacLeod said the provider got involved in the pilot to improve residents’ access to primary care services.

“We wanted to look at better ways to use technology for more timely assessment with GPs,” Ms MacLeod told Australian Ageing Agenda.  

Tamra MacLeod

“We realised that residents can rapidly deteriorate if they’re very unwell, and GPs are obviously very busy.”

The pilot is at the halfway mark and already benefiting residents, Ms MacLeod said.

“You can have a full assessment done fairly quickly. And that the patient, the nurse and the GP are all involved,” she said.

Residents can engage more easily in this method than traditional telehealth consultations, which has been particularly beneficial during recent COVID-19 related restrictions, Ms MacLeod said.

“GPs can still come in but it’s been very restricted around visitors. So it means we’re not risking residents going out or people coming in unless they have to. And it’s really timely.”

Ms MacLeod said there has also been a positive response from RNs, who have found assessments educational.

She hopes more GPs implement the system and it becomes widely used in aged care.

“I’d love to see it become an option. It’s not the only option for care but it would be nice for GPs to have that as part of their toolkit right across aged care,” she said.

Next Practice Deakin director and principal Dr Paresh Dawda said TytoCare went a long way to improving aged care residents’ access to health services.

“GP home visits or visits to residential care facilities are sometimes limited, partly due to the travel time, so providing care for those who most need GP consultations is a real challenge for the industry,” Dr Dawda said in a statement.

Dr Dawda said the technology would also allow family members who live interstate or overseas to attend virtual GP appointments.

Goodwin said it would look at rolling out the technology across its homes pending the formal review of the pilot.

Main image: A GP using TytoCare

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