Telehealth supporting heart failure outreach
New research has recently been published highlighting the benefits of telehealth in supporting not only clients but the staff at a hospital outreach heart failure service (HFS). The small pilot study aimed to supplement the delivery of care services through telehealth solutions at the The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).
Heart failure, the condition whereby the heart muscles become too weak to effectively pump blood throughout the body, is estimated to affect over 2.5 per cent of Australians aged 55-64, and 8.2 per cent of those aged over 75, the study reported.
With patients’ health data readily available, it reduced the number of house calls and travel time for both patients and clinicians as well as lessening the need to contact patients by phone.
The RBWH’s HFS provides care for those with heart failure, as well as championing self-management of the condition at home. As part of the pilot study, an interactive, audio-visual telehealth solution was introduced to support risk assessment, as well as general care offered by the HFS.
Telehealth solutions at work
The study was the result of a collaboration between the RBWH, the University of Southern Queensland and Tunstall Healthcare in 2012, permitting those involved to gather useful feedback about the viability of the pilot.
The selection of telehealth peripherals was tailored to suit individual patients’ needs – involving devices such as the mytelemedic monitor, blood pressure monitors, oximeters and glucometers – which were linked to the patient management system, ICP triage manager.
This allowed patients to monitor and manage their own heath from the comfort of their own home through daily prompts to take readings of their vital signs, as well as answering questions about their symptoms.
Once the patient’s data had been collected, it was transmitted to both the HFS triage and the Tunstall monitoring centre. The HFS team would then be advised to contact or visit a patient should their readings appear to be outside of the pre-determined limits.
Upon conclusion of the study, it was found that participants had reached consensus over the advantages that telehealth could bring to the HFS, with the pilot well received by both patients and staff.
With health data readily available, it reduced the number of house calls and travel time for both patients and clinicians as well as lessening the need to contact patients by phone.
The authors expressed how it was perplexing that on a global scale telehealth projects rarely went beyond pilot studies, despite the needs of the older people, as well as the frail or those with disabilities going largely unmet.
“People generally prefer to remain in their own homes and delay or avoid a move to institutional care,” the study notes.
“Telehealth technology is aimed at enabling people to live more independently, access care in their own homes, improve service efficiency and allow earlier intervention to slow or reverse the progression of disease, to empower consumers and their carers, and otherwise improve their quality of life.”
The study’s promising results could have a positive impact on outreach hospital services, such as that offered by the RBWH.
The authors also believe that telehealth could prove to be beneficial for Australians requiring access to healthcare while preferring to continue living at home, especially in isolated or rural areas.