Nurses and patients more than satisfied with Nova Scotia home telehealth pilot

Ottawa 18 April 2002Canada's largest home telehealth pilot has found that 95.5% of patients who received remote video conferencing homecare visits were satisfied with the home telehealth experience. The goal of the pilot, which brought together We Care Home Health Services nurses and clients in Halifax, Nova Scotia and broadband applications technology from March Networks, was to gauge client and nurse satisfaction, access to care, equivalence in quality of care, and potential cost savings in supplementing conventional homecare with remote home telehealth visits.

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Home telehealth combines interactive video, audio and data transmission over high speed broadband networks, enabling homecare organisations to complement in-person nursing care with remote video visits and vital sign monitoring conducted using secure, advanced IP technology. The complete findings of the pilot, prepared independently by researchers from the Health Telematics Unit of the University of Calgary, were made available at an event hosted by March Networks, a developer of broadband IP applications. The pilot was conducted between August 2001 and February 2002.

The study found favorable results in the four evaluation areas. Both patients and clients reported high to very high satisfaction with the home telehealth care provided. In addition, 95.5% of the patients reported being satisfied overall with the home telehealth experience. Access to care was increased using home telehealth. This was seen in projections that showed nurses were able to double the number of patient visits and in the finding that, with this sample population, 86% of homecare visits could be performed using home telehealth.

The care provided using the home telehealth solution was equivalent to in-home visits as measured using an accepted evaluation tool for quality of life. Cost savings were demonstrated from the use of home telehealth by significantly reducing "windshield" time required for each visit equal to 75 days of a nurse's time per year. Other factors in cost savings are related to the increased efficiency in the use of skilled nursing time.

March Networks chairman and CEO Terry Matthews stated: "Broadband applications such as Home Telehealth demonstrate the power of our networked world. With broadband applications, we are addressing real world business issues and in this case, the social issue of health care delivery in countries such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, where nursing shortages currently exist and are forecast to be at critical levels within the next 10 to 20 years."

A study conducted by the Canadian Nurses Association in 2000 predicted that in Canada, there will be a shortage of 113.000 nurses by 2011. A similar study in the United States reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2001 estimated that the overall number of nurses per capita will begin to decline in 2007, and that by 2020 the number of nurses will fall nearly 20 percent below requirements. In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Nursing published a report in February 2002, "Beyond the Headlines: A Review of the UK Nursing Labour Market in 2001", which identifies that demands by 2004 for nurses will exceed the projected number by 115.000 nurses, a shortfall of approximately 30 percent.

The study population consisted of patients with chronic diseases including cardiac illness, respiratory illness, and cancer. To support a high level of client acceptance, the solution uses the familiar home television as the primary end-user communication interface, as well as a lightweight, wireless health monitoring kit that provides a simplified means of capturing client vital sign information.

For the remote visits, the nurse visits the homecare clients via video conferencing and sees the results of measurements taken on blood pressure, SPO2, temperature, weight, and heart and lung sounds within a secure Web-based application. The visits, which averaged 11 minutes in duration, and were conducted one or two times per week, were used in the trial to supplement the regular in-person visits that the homecare clients received.

This pilot project was jointly funded by March Networks and CANARIE Inc., a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to accelerating the development of Canada's Internet and the creation of innovative applications that exploit the power of that infrastructure to benefit Canadians. "This project stems from a unique three-way partnership that has demonstrated the power of broadband applications to serve the needs of health care givers, their patients, and the health care system overall", stated Dr. Andrew Bjerring, President and CEO of CANARIE Inc.


Leslie Versweyveld

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