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New pilot for older people promotes independence at home

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aged care services provider and retirement village operator, The Selwyn Foundation, has launched an innovative Telehealthcare pilot which uses simple touch-screen technology to help older people monitor their health and receive timely healthcare support and advice from the comfort of their own home.

Designed to assist people over the age of 65 who have been recently diagnosed with a chronic disease such as airways disease or high blood pressure, the system has been developed to allow older people to gain a better understanding of their health condition and to support them in managing their symptoms at home with a greater degree of confidence.

The ‘My Health Clinic at Home’ service enables users to monitor their vital signs and assess their general wellness on a daily basis. These results are then securely transmitted via the Internet to a specially trained Telehealth registered nurse for review, with both the user and nurse able to discuss the results by videoconference and any particular action that may be required to manage the person’s care that day. The programme runs alongside the individual’s current care provision, with the results sent to their doctor or case manager to assist with clinical management.

A total of twenty people will be involved in the pilot programme, who will be provided with a small touch-screen computer (similar to an IPad) and health measuring devices, such as scales, oxygen measure, blood glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff and thermometer. The system has been developed for those with no computer experience and will be free to participants throughout the pilot period, with all medical equipment, training and Internet access provided by The Selwyn Foundation.

Commenting on the pilot, The Selwyn Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Garry Smith, says: "The aim of this service is for older people to be able to take more ownership of - and feel more confident in managing - their health condition at home. "New Zealand has a rapidly ageing population that will place an increased strain on the health and aged care sectors. Therefore, new ways of supporting older people that extend the length of time they can stay in their own homes need to be found.

"Experience overseas demonstrates that telehealthcare helps older people to stay well and healthy at home, maintains their independence and also prevents unnecessary hospital admissions.

"This pilot will help us identify how this technology can reinforce people’s understanding of their GP’s recommendations, and how we can support and coach users in putting this advice into practice at home as part of their daily routine. Such interaction will also aid in early detection and management of health issues and create resilience on the part of users so that their wellness is maintained for longer."

As part of the programme, smart house technology is also available, with appropriate safety monitoring devices provided to support the older person at home which will operate 24/7 during the life of the pilot. These may include an alarm pendant, fall detector, movement detector or smoke alarm, which are monitored by an alarm company. An additional benefit for users is the ability to use their touch-screen device to videoconference with family, friends, their GP and other healthcare professionals through the Skype-type functionality.

The six-month pilot, which ends in December 2015, has been developed in association with leading Australian health technology service provider, Feros Care Telehealth Services, who have been successfully delivering telehealthcare for the older population throughout Australia for the past six years.

Garry Smith says: "The Selwyn Foundation aims to continuously improve and expand on our range of services that are available to older people living in the community as well as in our retirement villages and aged care facilities, and to lead the field in terms of our models of care.

"The use of this type of assistive technology provides peace of mind for family members when they can’t be there and is in line with our philosophy of supporting seniors to remain as independent as possible. The Selwyn Foundation is noted for trialling the use of new technologies as helpful additions to the overall range of aids that are available in the care of older people, and the ‘My Health Clinic at Home’ service is part of a suite of products that we are planning for the future."

The ‘My Health Clinic at Home’ pilot has ethics approval and will be evaluated independently on an ongoing basis by the University of Auckland’s UniServices, with a view to making the service available to the market in 2016.

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