Designed to keep people healthy and in their communities, Telehealth can be used in a variety of different ways to provide timely and equitable access to those requiring clinical services. One way of doing this is to use Telehealth to conduct specialist consultations with health professionals via secure transmission videoconferencing. Using the internet and software similar to Skype, specialists and their patients can talk, hear and see one another via tablets, smartphones or a computer, with the patient in the comfort of their own home. Family members and GP’s can even connect in from their own location and device if required!
The ability to access this technology is of particular benefit to not only frail elderly people living in remote communities, but also for those people living in an aged care facility or their home. For example, older people who have trouble getting out and about, can use Telehealth as a means to avoid the distress, and in some cases confusion or chance of falls, associated with lengthy travel, and transfers to see a specialist.
Another valuable use for this technology is when Hospitals partner with Aged Care Providers to use Telehealth as a tool to assess residents living in residential aged care homes. Rather than immediately taking unwell residents to hospital, a Telehealth consultation can take place, which has assisted in reductions in hospital admission rates and geriatric emergency department presentations. This virtual consultation has the benefit of creating less distress for the resident and their family, as residents can remain in the comfort of their own room and surroundings, supported by a familiar staff member.
Anglican Care’s Nurse Practitioner Janean Cole took part in an extensive trial using Teleheath for this purpose. Teaming up Belmont Hospital with five residential aged care sites across Anglican Care, the trial aimed to reduce hospital admissions from residential homes to the emergency department as well as improving the clinical handover when a person moves from acute care to a residential aged care home. The trial was completed in 2018 and deemed successful.
“Telehealth is a valuable visual tool for clinicians supporting residential aged care facilities to get the right care in the right place at the right time for elderly residents.” said Janean.
John Hunter Hospital has since introduced Telehealth and Anglican Care have continued to expand their use of Telehealth across the organisation, including in the community where clinicians can now remotely monitor people’s health metrics, i.e. blood pressure and blood sugar.