Telehealth in residential aged care improving access and keeping residents out of hospital

  • Two doctors on webcam reviewing xrays online
    Caption: A video consult using the Healthdirect platform. Photo: Healthdirect
Western NSW Primary Health Network
Michelle Squire, Project Officer Aged Care Programs

A program providing video consults between GPs and residents in aged care has improved access to health services and helped keep residents out of hospital.

Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) participated in a nation-wide Better Health Care Connections trial funded by the Department of Health to pilot the feasibility of GPs providing video consultations to residents of participating residential aged care facilities (RACFs) in Broken Hill.  The pilot, which ended in June 2017, made notable improvements in RACFs’ access to primary health care services, facilitated GP involvement in multidisciplinary care of residents and provided multidisciplinary care coordination to RACF residents that included allied health and specialist services.  During this pilot there was a significant reduction in hospital transfers from RACFs in Broken Hill. 

From September 2017, WNSW PHN and the NSW Rural Doctors Network partnered to fund the Telehealth in Residential Aged Care Facilities Program (TRAC), which provides RACFs with access to GP-led video consultation telehealth services both during and after hours using the Healthdirect platform.

TRAC video consultation can be completed on any device; for example, a PC, laptop, smartphone, iPad or a tablet that has a camera, microphone and speakers. The providers require a Provider Login ID to login to their Virtual Clinic using the Healthdirect Video Call platform along with a reliable internet connection.

The current TRAC Program provides GP video consultations into six aged care facilities; two in Dubbo, three in Broken Hill and one in Wentworth. The six facilities have a total of 395 beds. There are five practices actively involved in this program, two in Broken Hill and two in Dubbo and one in Mildura. A Practice in Merbein has recently been engaged in the Program and will complete consults into Wentworth, taking the number of General Practices to six.

The aim of the TRAC Program is to improve the access to health professionals for residents of aged care facilities with chronic and complex health conditions, by:

  • Funding a model of care where a GP provides consultations via video conferencing to aged care residents in RACFs in the communities in the WNSW region.
  • Providing a program that is innovative, flexible and adaptable to changing demographics and demands and the way that services are delivered.
  • Delivering Allied Health and Specialist consultations to Aged Care residents using video consultation.

The TRAC Program enhances multidisciplinary care activities to RACF residents with chronic and complex health needs.  With an ageing population GPs need increased support so that they can continue to provide high-quality services to patients in RACF facilities.

The TRAC Program provides an improved patient experience, improved clinician experience, lower costs and better outcomes. Benefits of video consultations for residents and the RACF include reduced waiting times, less distress for residents, reduced need for transport and hospital transfers, and making things easier for family and carers. And benefits for the GP include the ability to see the patient in their usual surroundings, get access to residents quickly and access funding for a video resident consult service which would not be possible via phone advice to the RACF RN.

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