Australian trial set to transform nursing home care

Medications trolleys in nursing homes may soon become mobile medical centres. The University of New South Wales has won a $300,000 grant to develop and trial a new point-of-care system that will allow nursing staff to manage medications, check patients’ clinical signs and streamline administration and clinical interaction with patients’ GPs.

Professor Branko Celler, Director of UNSW’s Biomedical Systems Laboratory (Health Telematics), leads a team running the trials in five residential care facilities in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.

The system is an enhanced version of the Home Telecare system successfully trialled in the past few years and to be released commercially in the next few weeks, subject to Therapeutics Goods Administration approval.

“The Home Telecare system is designed for single user by a single user,” says project manager Dr Jim Basilakis. “This system has multi-user capability and many enhanced features.”

The new system will be trialled in Montefiore Homes in Maroubra and Hunters Hill, NSW, Ardmillan Place in Essenden, Vicotria and the Goodwin House and Uniting Care Mirinjani Village in the ACT.

The first three months of the trial will establish the user requirements of such a system. The following five months will be spent in developing and testing the appropriate software.

Nursing staff will be able check blood pressure, lung function, temperature, pulse rate and weight –and the system will periodically send results back to a central server where doctors can log in securely and check them.

“Managing medications is a very important issue for nursing homes,” says Dr Basilakis. “Often nursing homes will make a phone order and send it to the pharmacist but then they have to arrange for the GP to drop in and sign for it.”

The team is working on a sophisticated medications management system to overcome this problem. It is aiming for a remote prescribing system that will allow the doctor to sign for scripts by an approved biometric method, such as a digital hand signature.

An automated knowledge system would report adverse trend to doctors, either by fax or email. The system would be trained to automatically flag abnormal results to alter doctors to possible health issues.

Doctors will be able to insert any health questionnaires they want nursing staff to conduct in their daily rounds. And for administrators, will allow them to streamline much of the paperwork associated with managing a nursing home. For example, by recoding how much care an individual patient requires, it will allow staff to reduce the documentation involved in applying for government subsidies based on the level of care residents require.

The research team also includes UNSW’s Associate Professor Nigel Lovell, Associate Professor Marc Budge from the ANU and Canberra Hospital, Dr Gideon Caplan of UNSW and Prince of Wales hospital.

“This grant was awarded because the proposed system is the only one able to integrate care across the whole primary care continuum, from the home, to residential care facilities to the GP surgery. The proposed system will also address the important problem of providing better clinical care for residents in residential care facilities, through the facilitation of increased GP participation in their care planning and management.”

CONTACT DETAILS: Professor Branko Celler, 02- 9385 4009, 0418 2 228 297
Professor Jim Basilakis, 02-9385 5315, 0412 556 279
Media Contact: Mary O’Malley, tel. 9385 2873, email [email protected]

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