Saving lives and money with telehealth

Telehealth using fast internet available over the nbn™ network has been improving the lives of elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with chronic health problems.

Integrated Living and the Department of Health recently reported on the success of a broadband-enabled pilot program called Staying Strong Telehealth.

A total of 136 patients trialled two models with nbn™ network connections - 111 patients used in-home telehealth equipment while 25 went to hubs at health centres to use the equipment in Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Toowoomba and Goodna. 98% of patients enjoyed the process.

Of those patients, 90% had five or more chronic conditions (the most common being high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and type 2 diabetes) and 15% had 10 or more of those conditions.

To complete the picture, 30% had been in hospital in the previous year and all but three took daily medications.

But the patients in the pilot program became more aware of their condition through daily telehealth checks on an audio-visual monitor. And that meant they were more selective about the need to visit a GP.

Before the pilot, nurses were spending about 40 minutes on travelling to check each patient’s vital signs - meaning they could see around 11 patients a week. With telehealth, this number went up to 40 patients per nurse a week, greatly improving their cost-effectiveness.

And the drop-in routine visits gave GPs more time for patients in need, also cutting costs in the process.

Another potential benefit of telehealth is early intervention, as demonstrated when a telehealth nurse prevented a 70 year old woman in Armidale, NSW, from having a heart attack when a change in vital health signs prompted a call to her GP who got her into hospital immediately.

The pilot program also saw that the Aboriginal community “grapevine” encouraged more people to join.

The pilot demonstrated that broadband services could provide high-speed transmission of health data for remote triaging by a nurse, with reduced wastage of resources.*

With ageing populations and growing costs putting huge pressure on the health system, the pilot saved 40% of what traditional face-to-face treatment in those circumstances would have cost.

By implementing telehealth equipment in the home it cost $137.52 per person per week, compared with $347.82 for a nurse to do the rounds of that patient.

For further information, see:

Staying Strong Telehealth
The Future of Telehealth
Towards a National Strategy for Telehealth in Australia

 

* nbn is very happy with this experience with the nbn™ network. Of course, people’s experiences may vary. Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network depends on some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your service provider designs its network.

 

Interested in telehealth? Check your address to find out if the nbn™ network is available at your home or business.
 

But the patients in the pilot program became more aware of their condition through daily telehealth checks on an audio-visual monitor. And that meant they were more selective about the need to visit a GP.