Feds launch NBN telehealth pilot

The $1.8 million Serving Older Australians NBN enabled telehealth project has been launched in WA to support the delivery of home care services.

Federal Minister for Regional Communications Sharon Bird launched on Wednesday a National Broadband Network enabled telehealth trial to help support and monitor the health of older Australians in their homes.

The project, Serving Older Australians, will be delivered through the Aged Care Industry IT Council (ACIITC), which is jointly owned by LASA and ACSA, in partnership with technology company Accenture and aged service providers Silver Chain in WA and Illawarra Retirement Trust (IRT) in NSW.

In May LASA was awarded a $1.8 million funding grant by the federal government for the project involving 180 elderly participants in Geraldton WA and the Illawarra region of NSW to support the delivery of home care services remotely.

The delayed roll out of the NBN however has raised some concern about the ability to recruit for and implement the pilot.

The trial in Geraldton will see Silver Chain using the NBN’s Fixed Wireless connection to link the telehealth equipment to the Internet in the client’s home to monitor vital signs based on client answers to questions that are recorded daily, and to conduct face-to-face video calls and conferencing remotely.

Carole Bain, Silver Chain’s General Manager of Country Services, said telehealth allows health professionals to monitor a client’s health and to recognise any signs of deterioration.

“This enables the client to take steps to control the situation, for example, take medication, or seek advice from their GP and, in turn, prevent a visit to the emergency department or an admission to hospital,” she said.

“For rural clients, this means they can stay in their community and not have to travel to a regional hospital or even to their nearest capital city,” said Ms Bain.

Silver Chain will host and manage the secure database containing the health data for pilot clients in both states.

At the completion of the trial, Silver Chain and IRT will compare results and examine options for sustainable models going forward, said Ms Bain.

LASA CEO Patrick Reid said an added benefit of the project was that it will explore how telehealth information can be integrated to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCeHR).

Telehealth could also be used to provide timely education to older Australians about their health and wellbeing, he said.

Mr Reid said he hoped that the pilot’s outcomes will encourage wider use of telehealth in aged care in the future.

ACIITC Chair Suri Ramanathan said the project will draw on the differences in the aged service providers’ locations and technical experience to encourage cross-country networking by clinicians.

“We want our providers to take a good thing one provider has and replicate it,” Mr Ramanathan said.

The project will also test the efficacy of telehealth consultations, such as the interaction between the patient and the clinician over video conference.

The project will run until the end of June 2014.

Geraldton residents aged 65 years or over may be eligible to take part in the trial. To find out more, contact Silver Chain Telehealth Nurse Linda Patmore on 0449 261 175.

Other NBN Enabled Telehealth Pilots Program funding recipients:

â—¾ Feros Care, My Health Clinic at Home, $2.461m

â—¾ Royal District Nursing Service, Integrated Home Telehealth, $2.993m

â—¾ Flinders University, Telehealth in the Home: Aged & Palliative Care in SA, $2.528m

â—¾ Hunter New England Local Health District, Cancer Care Self-Management NBN Telehealth Program, $1.546m

â—¾ UniQuest, ConTAC (Comprehensive Telehealth Assisted Care), $2.756m

â—¾ Integratedliving, Staying Strong: Enhanced Aged Care for ATSI Australians, $2.104m

â—¾ CSIRO, Home Monitoring of Chronic Disease for Aged Care, $2.748m

â—¾ CSIRO, NBN Enabled Indigenous Tele-eye Care, $1.300m

For more health and ageing policy news, visit Australian Ageing Agenda.

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