Pioneering remote care

Nurse Anne Maree Battersby with Catherine Bradley using the Intel Health Guide remote patient monitoring system
Nurse Anne Maree Battersby with Catherine Bradley using the Intel Health Guide remote patient monitoring system

A Hunter region study shows the potential to remotely manage chronic illness in the home via high-speed broadband internet.A Newcastle nurse has helped pioneer the use of an in-home patient monitoring system in Australian homes, showing the potential of high-speed broadband to revolutionise the care of people with chronic illness.NSWNMA member Ann Maree Battersby was the clinical nurse specialist assisting a pilot study of the Intel Health Guide patient monitoring system across the Hunter region of New South Wales.

The study involved 57 community patients with one or more chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study ran for 18 months and patients took part for about six months on average.

Each patient was given a home monitor linked by a broadband internet connection to staff at Hunter Nursing, a community-nursing provider based in the Newcastle suburb of Toronto.

The touch-screen monitor connected patients to devices that measured indicators such as blood pressure, oxygenation and weight. The monitor also issued patient reminders, conducted surveys and displayed educational videos.

Ann Maree said the study showed patients could benefit from remote monitoring and care, using the latest medical technology with existing standard internet speeds.

She said the much faster internet speeds provided by the National Broadband Network would produce even better results. If rolled out across Australia, the NBN would allow nurses to remotely monitor and communicate with patients in their homes, wherever they live.

“The trial of the Intel health Guide allowed us to see a patient’s real data every day, rather than weekly or fortnightly, and to detect sudden problems and negative trends much earlier,”

Ann Maree said. “Patients were given a set time each day to do their health sessions. The monitor sounded an alarm, the patient lifted the lid of the monitor and the session started straight away.

“The data was instantly transmitted to the care management program in the office where a nurse checked the results of each patient’s session every day. We were therefore able to act quickly on whatever the data indicated.

“For instance, if blood pressure was showing high the nurse could speak to and see the patient via real-time video conference, make sure the patient was okay, get them to do their blood pressure again, and if necessary send a nurse or arrange to get them to a GP.

“The system can send a report to the GP showing blood pressure results over a period of time.”

Ann Maree said the monitor also helped gauge the patient’s physical and mental state by asking the patient to record how they were feeling by ticking boxes.

“If people indicated they were depressed or anxious we could immediately talk to them ‘face-to-face’ via the monitor.”

The monitor also screened on- demand, educational videos dealing with issues such as blood pressure, medication, diabetes and heart disease.

Intel sent Ann Maree to its United States headquarters to be trained in the use of its Health Guide and on her return to Australia she trained other nurses. Ann Maree said patients found the equipment easy to use.

“They liked the security of doing a health session every day and being monitored by a nurse every day in the comfort of their own homes.

“We were able to reduce the number of required home visits and yet the nurses got to know the patients a lot better.

“There was less travelling for patients too – the system made them more independent in their own homes.

“There was less need to visit the doctor and we kept patients out of hospital through early detection of problems such as chest infections.

“We had very good feedback from patients. When the pilot study finished one lady said she felt she was losing a friend.”

A patient from outside the Hunter region, Peggy Kendall from the town of Scottsdale in northeast Tasmania, also took part in the study. Scottsdale, about 60 kilometres from Launceston, was one of the first towns in Australia to be connected to the NBN. Mrs Kendall   initially relied on a standard internet connection, until she was hooked up to the NBN for Prime Minister Gillard’s launch of the network in the Tasmanian town of Midway Point, 250km from Scotttsdale.

At the NBN launch, Ann Maree helped the Prime Minister speak to Mrs Kendall via the at-home monitor. Ann Maree said videoconferencing over the NBN’s much-faster internet speed was a big improvement, producing a sharp picture and clear sound with no delay in transmission.

Ann Maree is available for consultation on the home monitoring system. For more information email annmaree.battersby@gmail.com