Feros Care rolls out WiFi for telehealth, PCEHR and online bingo

Aged and community care provider Feros Care has upgraded all of its residential aged care villages to the next generation WiFi standard, 802.11ac, which will allow the organisation to provide high-definition video conferencing and VoIP phones to every bedside and to further develop its telehealth capability.

Having been one of the first to install a WiFi nurse call system at its Byron Bay facility in 2011, Feros Care will use the new Gigabit WiFi 802.11ac technology from Aruba to install WiFi nurse call throughout the organisation's facilities.

It plans to provide video conferencing to the bedside using custom-built touchscreen robots, deliver clinical care systems to the bedside, provide internet access to residents and guests, use RFID tracking for assets and replace its DECT phone system. It also plans to introduce new services for residents such as virtual museum tours and online bingo.

Feros Care's CIO, Glenn Payne, said one of the benefits of WiFi nurse call was that it would allow the organisation to be more flexible and versatile with room set-ups to cater for the individual needs of each resident.

““Our goal is to transform our facilities into 'Smartvillages' and we love the idea of not relying on the wiring in the walls to determine the technology we use in the rooms, [and] we have the opportunity to install and remove items as the resident needs change,” Mr Payne said.

“With the help of a partner, Surecom, we heat-mapped each site to enable ultimate coverage as the scope was to enable and prioritise voice and HD video throughout each site.”

VoIP and WiFi internet will allow residents to use cloud-based products like Skype, Facebook and Google+ to keep in touch with their families in the comfort of their own rooms. Mr Payne said Feros Care will offer “silver surfer” training to get the residents on-board and using these technologies to connect.

Feros also plans to provide virtual tours for less mobile residents through live streaming of museum tours and cultural events. Mr Payne said he was currently investigating the use of camera technology similar to a GoPro and microphones to enable two-way interactions at special events.

Feros Care also wants to connect its residential sites with virtual games like bingo and trivia using high definition video and multiparty rooms. “It’s a way to use gamification and get sites excited about connecting with each other socially using technology, and at the same time having a little fun,” he said.

Telehealth

Feros Care has long been interested in the potential of telehealth, particularly as the company provides home and community care as well as residential aged care. It has launched a three-year pilot program called TEMCAS using video conferencing with GPs and specialists for residents with complex health needs.

Feros Care has invested in a LifeSize teleconferencing suite that is used not just for telehealth but for staff recruitment and communication, which has more than paid for itself through reducing travelling times for remote staff.

Added to the new WiFi capability, the technology will allow virtual consultations between residents and their health professionals anywhere within Feros Care's facilities, Mr Payne said. It will also improve privacy and convenience for residents, particularly if they are very frail or ill and are unable to get out of bed.

“Our WiFi technology will support virtual education sessions, group allied health programs and case coordination across our three residential villages,” he said.

“We have custom-built video conferencing touchscreen robots that can be wheeled around the villages using the gigabyte WiFi network.”

Feros Care is also running a telehealth pilot project called My Health Clinic AT Home (MHCAH) for older people living at home in Coffs Harbour in NSW. The idea is to showcase the benefits of high speed broadband and to get an independent evaluation of the viability of the service.

Mr Payne said that although the report will not be published until later in the year, “it is safe to say that the pilot has opened Feros Care’s eyes to what is possible”.

MHCAH involves a touchscreen tablet, health monitoring equipment, training, ongoing support and the capability to video conference with health professionals such as GPs, nurses, specialists and case managers.

“Our goal from the pilot is to develop up a cost model and include the My Health Clinic AT Home technology as a standard service option for Feros Care in all areas as a part of our Home Care Package services,” he said.

“[That] allows for technology to be included as service options within the consumer-directed care model. So this will allow Feros Care to consider this service anywhere in our footprint, not just Coffs Harbour.”

Mr Payne said Feros Care had also been given initial notification of a successful tender to commence operation of its MHCAH in Sydney South, which is a mainstream service under the Home and Community Care Program. “I think there will be other funding options that will be available into the future.”

The company is also looking at self-funding a pilot with its Tasmanian clients later in the year, using the MHCAH technology as a standard part of Feros Care's case management model. “That is, providing our package care clients with the standard MHCAH tablet to allow for virtual case management of our clients in conjunction with traditional face to face case management visits.

“The goal is to connect with clients more often, to improve the efficiencies around travel, and to give the client the ability to connect virtually with friends, families, GPs, clinicians and other stakeholders in their lives.”

PCEHR and home telecare

Another benefit of the WiFi roll-out will be allowing residents who have registered for a PCEHR to access their record easily and speedily.

Feros Care has worked with its clinical software provider, DCA Health's The Care Manager (TCM), to roll out the PCEHR in its facilities, one of the first in the country to do so. Mr Payne said Feros Care piloted the TCM interface with the PCEHR in June 2013, and successfully connected that July.

“This technology has enabled community care managers to make clinical decisions about clients' wellbeing through the read access to the client eHealth record,” he said. “This is the future of health and clinical decision making and Feros were very proud to be one of the first aged care companies to connect.”

Feros Care is currently working with Medicare Locals to significantly increase the number of its clients and residents registered for their own PCEHR. “We are particularly excited about more hospitals coming on board to provide hospital discharge summaries and for our clients being able to include their own advanced care directives on their eHealth record,” he said.

In addition to providing residential and community care, Feros Care also runs a thriving home monitoring subsidiary called Lifelink, which supplies telecare products and services to people living at home. The organisation recently installed its one-thousandth Smart Home with its range of telecare and telehealth products.

The Lifelink team includes technicians, nurses and other care professionals who are able offer advice and solutions to clients and families on what technology could support their ability to remain living independently. This includes 24/7 emergency pendants, falls detectors, auto lighting, bed and chair sensors, medication reminders and environmental sensors for smoke, flooding and gas for people living with dementia.

Feros Care has also been trialling GPS-enabled smart watches for residents and clients, running a pilot recently. Mr Payne said that while he was not in a position to recommend any particular product, he was pretty excited about their potential.

“Waterproofing and size are our two requirements we are searching for at the moment, but we will keep trialling as they will provide a huge piece of mind for families who may have a loved one who wanders or may get confused or lost at times. This type of technology may allow some seniors to remain living in their home for longer and it's our priority at present to find the right solution.”

Posted in Aged Care

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