Lay Yean Woo1
1 Djerriwarrh Health Services, PO Box 330, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, 3340, LayY@djhs.org.au
Managing the rising cost of delivering healthcare is a major challenge for Australia. Telehealth is the delivery of health related services and information via telecommunication strategies. The widespread proliferation of the internet, the capabilities offered by fast broadband infrastructure and rapid advances in health technologies have revolutionised delivery of health services possible especially in remote communities In partnership with CSIRO, Djerriwarrh Health Service participated in Australia’s first large scale telehealth clinical trial, funded by the Australian Government Broadband Enabled Telehealth Pilots Program..
Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are a high cost to the health system as they typically have a combination of complex medical conditions, and in many cases frequently visit the hospital. The 12 month trial of telehealth services is to improve people with chronic disease such as diabetes to self-manage their conditions at home and reducing hospital admissions. This system uses a home monitor with a large screen to help guide the client through different procedures to take their blood pressure, record their blood oxygen, blood glucose, electrocardiogram, body temperature, body weight, spirometry and answer a number of clinical questionnaires.
Twenty five patients with different chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension and asthma were recruited for home-monitoring to assess the impact of telehealth services. Patient data which was uploaded daily to a server was accessible by a clinician who then remotely provided appropriate care interactions.
Results show that clients involved in the study are uniformly positive on the benefits of the telemonitoring and report increasing awareness of their conditions and a much greater capacity for self-management. Many examples where an exacerbation in the patient’s condition has been detected and early intervention either avoided hospitalisation or resulted in a better outcome of HbA1C have been observed.
Timeous intervention can prevent hospitalisations, reduce length of stay, reduce social dislocation and improve quality of life. Home telemonitoring enables clients to monitor their own health variables in their own homes. This has shown to deliver cost-effective, timely and improved access to quality care. Improvements in technology are reducing the need for travel, providing timely access to services, improving the ability to identify developing conditions and providing new ways to educate and support management of chronic conditions. Consequently it has the potential to reduce the burden on the healthcare system by providing more affordable strategies to support individuals to effectively self-manage their conditions such as diabetes.