Healthy ageing goes global

Aged care providers can now apply to receive funding for telehealth pilots, as World Health Day promotes global healthy ageing and social inclusiveness.

Above: A participant in the UK Department of Health’s Whole System Demonstrator trial of telehealth and telecare equipment.

By Stephen Easton
This Saturday is World Health Day, which marks the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948, and this year’s theme is ageing and health.
The WHO has produced a range of free online resources, including posters, an active ageing photo gallery and a toolkit to help people organise events around the idea that “good health adds life to years”. 
The organisation, part of the United Nations system, has used World Health Day to call for “urgent action to ensure that, at a time when the world’s population is ageing rapidly, people reach old age in the best possible health”.
In order to “strengthen healthy and active ageing”, the WHO advises governments of the world to focus on positive health promotion, quality care services as well physical and social environments that foster the health and participation of older people.
The occasion has also given Tunstall Healthcare an opportunity to draw attention to the Whole System Demonstrator, a large-scale trial of telecare and telehealth devices being run by the UK Department of Health, which mostly relies on devices manufactured by the company.
According to Tunstall, the project will evaluate the use of the equipment to support 6,000 patients in Kent, Newham and Cornwall in the UK, making it the largest randomised control study of its kind in the world.
Preliminary results drawn from a minimum 12 months’ data on 3,030 participants have already revealed a 45 per cent reduction in mortality rates, 15 per cent reduction in accident and emergency visits and a 20 per cent reduction in emergency admissions.
The trial has also found a 14 per cent reduction in elective admissions, a 14 per cent reduction in bed days and an 8 per cent reduction in tariff costs. 
Meanwhile, the Australian Government has just invited aged care providers and other organisations to apply for funding under the NBN-Enabled Telehealth Pilots Program, to run their own telehealth pilot projects.
Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said yesterday the program would provide up to $20.6 million for innovative telehealth pilots over the next two years.
“Telehealth can solve the tyranny of distance by using technology to bring health services that are sometimes only provided hundreds of kilometres away from the patient’s home right into their living room,” Ms Plibersek said.
“We want patients to get the health care that they need, when they need it and where they need it.
“Imagine a cancer patient in Mandurah, Western Australia, speaking with her oncologist in Perth. She can remain in the comfort of her own home with family and carers, while her specialist collects real time vital statistics such as blood pressure or heart rate via the NBN.”
Minister Conroy added that healthcare delivered via NBN-enabled telehealth services would “make a real difference to the lives of Australians with high health care needs, particularly those living in regional, rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas”.
“The program also aims to provide coaching and healthy living support in the home to improve overall health outcomes for older Australians or those living with serious illness,” he said.
“For example, a person receiving palliative care in Armidale, New South Wales, could discuss symptom management with a palliative care nurse on Monday, equipment or physiotherapy needs with a physiotherapist on Thursday, and seek dietary advice the following week – all from care team members located in Newcastle.”
Please click here if you are interested in applying for funding under the NBN Telehealth Pilots Program.
Tags: active-ageing, healthy-ageing, nbn, telecare, telehealth,

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