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Community nurses to deliver virtual consults

People living in their own homes will have daily virtual consultations with community nurses under a new trial. Darragh O Keeffe reports.

Up to 50 community care clients in Victoria will soon have their medications monitored remotely thanks to a new trial of virtual consultations using the national broadband network.

The Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) late last week unveiled the new $1.2 million Healthy, Happy and at Home project, which aims to support older people to live at home for longer, and reduce the amount of travel time for community nurses caring for them.

The RDNS says its nurses currently travel 10 million kilometres each year, making more than 1.8 million home visits to 35,000 clients.

Through the project, however, clients will have a virtual consultation with an RDNS nurse six days a week, facilitated by a special monitor in their home. This will be complimented by a home visit on the seventh day.

In the initial phase of the trial, which runs until August 2013, the virtual consultations will be used for medication monitoring; enabling the RDNS nurse to see the client take the correct tablets and doses.

However, it is hoped that the clients will eventually be able to send vital information such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels and weight to the RDNS nurse through the technology. That information would then be uploaded to the central RDNS system and, in conjunction with the client’s GP, safe parameters for each measurement could be set and monitored.

Carol Towers, clinical nurse leader on the project, said that one of the benefits of the virtual consults was more precise scheduling for the client.

“With the traditional [home visit] you allocate a two or three hour block so the client knows you’re coming, but they’re not sure exactly what time. The benefit of the video conferencing is we can stipulate a time, and once we’ve made the call the client is free to go out and get on with their day.”

Towers said it was also hoped the technology would drive efficiencies. Having cut out much of the travel time required for traditional home visits, the nurses may be able to conduct a greater number of virtual consultations in a day, and therefore care for more clients at a time.

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