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Volume 17, Issue 1, October 2012, ISBN 1832 620X
 

Small steps towards bridging the health divide: The Aboriginal Remote Telehealth (ART) Pilot Trial

Joanna Smith, Acting Director of Research, Silver Chain Group

Silver ChainThe Silver Chain Group’s research unit <www.silverchain.org.au/group/research/> is investigating the use of telehealth remote monitoring of chronic disease to improve the health status of people living in remote corners of Western Australia. Benefits of telehealth services include reduced hospital use and easier access to ongoing health care monitoring for populations living in remote areas.

Aboriginal people in Australia have a higher rate of most long term health conditions than non-Aboriginal people, with the prevalence of diabetes being more than three times higher and kidney disease more than ten times higher. In recognition of this health disparity, Silver Chain commenced a pilot trial exploring the potential benefits of remote monitoring of chronic disease using telehealth technology for Aboriginal people living in Carnarvon, WA.

The pilot involved ten Silver Chain clients who had multiple co-morbidities including diabetes, renal failure, heart disease and respiratory disease. All of the clients regularly attended the service centre for breakfast and personal care and during those visits care aides assisted them to take their own vital sign measurements and enter them on to the telehealth equipment.

The measurements were immediately uploaded to a secure website for a nurse to monitor later in the day. If any indications of an exacerbation were identified by the nurse, documented care pathways were implemented. This included actions such as a home visit, consultation with the client’s GP or a request that the care aide assist the client to visit their GP. Any interventions were then recorded on the client’s monitoring web site and clinical notes.

The trial has been running since July 2011 and is currently being evaluated. Care aides and nurses report that the monitoring is a positive step forward in assisting clients to manage their own health.

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