Aged care residents will be saved unnecessary visits to the Emergency Department following the launch of an expanded telehealth service at Mackay Base Hospital.
Residents at ten aged care facilities in Mackay and Sarina are benefitting from the service, the first of its kind in Queensland.
The Aging in Place project is a collaboration between Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and the Mackay Hospital and Health Service.
Virtual Health Clinical Lead and Mackay Base Hospital Emergency Department Senior Medical Officer Dr John Hadok said the latest video conferencing technology was used to connect the patient with a doctor.
“Travel to and from a hospital for assessment and care can have major impacts on aged-care residents,” Dr Hadok said.
“Using telehealth means residents can stay in their familiar surroundings when their GP is unavailable.
“This service is in addition to the already great work that GPs do caring for aged care facility residents.”
NQPHN Chief Executive Officer John Gregg said this service will assist older residents in the region to receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
“This new telehealth service provides an innovative solution to improve access to healthcare for aged care residents in Mackay and Sarina,” Mr Gregg said.
“The aim is to prioritise the health needs of older individuals and provide better connected primary healthcare by minimising the amount of unnecessary travel time.
“We are proud to work in collaboration with the Mackay Hospital and Health Service to help older residents in the region live happier, healthier, longer lives.”
The service runs from 4pm-10pm seven days a week. The Mackay launch follows the start of the same service in Bowen in February.
Dr Hadok said patients who were seriously unwell and deteriorating would still come to hospital by ambulance.
If a GP is unavailable when a resident becomes unwell nursing staff at the aged care facility contact the Telehealth Emergency Management Support Unit (TEMSU) – a video conferencing service in Brisbane staffed by critical care nurses.
The TEMSU team then organises a telehealth consultation with a senior medical officer at Mackay Base Hospital.
Dr Hadok said an important aspect of the new service was up-skilling nurses in aged care facilities.
“More than 121 nurses have attended training at the Base Hospital covering topics such as recognising sepsis, infection, delirium, dementia and depression and the hallmarks of deterioration,” he said.
Aged care facility staff have also undertaken intensive training to ensure they are familiar with the new process and technology.
Mackay Base Hospital emergency medical officers have received training to prepare them for providing Telehealth clinical consultations and the clinical processes associated with delivering virtual care.
“The ideal is for older people to be cared for where they live. Upskilling the nurses and providing additional support means residents are less likely to come to hospital.
“But if they can’t be managed in the facility, the next layer of support is through telehealth.”
The model of care was trialled using telephone consultations with four aged care facilities but has now expanded to video conference which is preferred by doctors because they can also see the patient.
“It’s about getting efficient, safe and timely care for our older people.”
Danielle Jesser | Media and Communications Manager | 4885 5984 | 0417 756 221