"This project was set up to help aged, disabled and chronically ill people and other persons who need taking care of, stay in their familiar environment as long as possible. We can do this by using state-of-the-art information and communication technologies (ICT)", explained Yolande Avontroodt, mayor of Schilde and a medical doctor as well.
The care applicant will receive a video telephone to get in contact with the care providers, who can be volunteers, general practitioners, nurses, non-medical care providers or suppliers. During the day, the Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW) provides the dispatching and connecting services while the rehabilitation and care centre St. Lodewijk takes over in the evening and at night.
Whenever the care applicant has a problem, he or she can immediately contact a local project co-operator who will take the necessary actions to solve the problem. This local co-operator can for instance call a non-medical care provider or a health care professional to visit the patient in his or her home if needed.
The reassuring effect in this project should not be underestimated. The patient is able to have instant visual contact with an available operator, who can ease the care applicant and call the specialized emergency services whenever necessary. Via the system's video/audio-conferencing facilities, the care applicant also can establish mutual contact with other people who are using the care channel to exchange experiences and support. In this way, a network is being created to enhance the care applicant's independency.
Partners in the "Video Care" project are the municipality of Schilde, the local Public Centre for Social Welfare, the rehabilitation and care centre St. Lodewijk, and the telephone and communication company Belgacom. In the framework of the project, the e-Care Forum has been set up to serve as a think tank for the government and industry to analyse the use of ICT for care providing in a broad social perspective.
Preceding studies have shown indeed that a purely local initiative is difficult to maintain on a middle-long or long term. Therefore, a large platform is required using a diversity of co-ordinated levels of service providing. At the same time, a small-scale pilot can test the technical and organisational feasibility of the project. The pilot in Schilde, a community of approximately 20.000 inhabitants, will run till the end of 2004.
At the end of the year, the "Video Care" project will be evaluated, adapted if needed, and be continued at a regional or national level. In a later stage, other services such as medical monitoring, might be integrated as well.