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Telehealth tech allows more patients to be treated at home

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Video conferencing technology within New Zealand’s health system is now being adapted to mobile devices - allowing patients to use their iPads at home rather than travel long distances to medical appointments.

The new software is courtesy of Vivid Solutions - New Zealand’s largest provider of video conferencing equipment and technology for the health industry - and could save district health boards (DHBs) millions of dollars a year.

Vivid Solutions has an extensive network which allows clinicians from almost every DHB in the country to connect with each other, community health providers and the Ministry of Health using video conferencing equipment.

Vivid Solution’s chief executive Miles Smith says those video conferencing links can now extend into people’s homes, with the development of new software allowing patients to join the secure health network using their own tablets, iPads, laptops or smart phones.

Last year the company ran a successful implementation in conjunction with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) to provide directly observed therapy at home for patients in the region.

"Nurses had to travel long distances each day to patients’ homes to carry out Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) - which involved observation of medication taking and assessment of any side-effects," Smith explains.

"But using this new software, patients were able to have their daily DOT monitored using their laptop or mobile devices at home. Treatment, which previously took up to 90 minutes in travel time to supervise, could be completed in as little as three minutes as nurses could talk to and watch the patient taking their medication."

Overall, the telehealth delivery system was cheaper than the cost of traditional DOT treatment, and the ARPHS deemed the implementation to be a safe, efficient and cost-effective way of treating patients. It met the objectives of delivering a 10% increase in the number of DOTs provided by the service within existing resources.

"Now this technology has been developed and successfully implemented, it can be used by virtually all other health specialties across New Zealand and the Pacific. It will greatly improve access to healthcare where geographical or accessibility challenges exist," Smith says.

"For example, patients who live in Kaitaia and need to regularly travel to Whangarei for medical appointments can now have their blood tests done locally and simply participate in a video consultation with their doctor for the follow up appointment."

Unlike Skype, Vivid Solutions’ New Zealand-based infrastructure is high quality, secure and has full IT support. The dedicated health network also allows medical professionals to share imaging with patients and colleagues in real time.

"The potential for multiple specialities to provide services in this cost-effective manner is almost unlimited. It will help DHBs around New Zealand get a lot more out of their health dollar."

Vivid Solutions is now approaching DHBs to gauge their interest and share the results of the Auckland teleDOT implementation.

"Both the patients and nursing staff involved in the trial were highly in favour of using this technology to reduce travel time and save costs," Smith says.

"There are thousands of patients across the country, and across the Pacific, who could greatly benefit from accessing medical treatment in the comfort of their own homes using this new software. We’re looking forward to helping DHBs roll out this service in the near future."

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