A guest post from Polycom's Public Sector View blog, by Jacqueline Boyle, Polycom Australia/New Zealand Marketing Lead:
Rural areas provide one of the largest challenges to the healthcare industry. In addition to specialists and other healthcare providers being in short supply, the delivery of care often requires the expensive transportation of a patient, or significant travel on the part of the patient. While this transportation or travel is ongoing, precious time passes between the onset of a condition and the delivery of treatment.
In addition to the geographic isolation of patients, rural areas can geographically isolate the healthcare professionals that do call them “home.” This can make it difficult to get consults from other medical professionals or specialists. This also means that any training can require significant travel and expense.
When it comes to delivering healthcare services to patients – and professional development to healthcare professionals – rural doctors and hospitals anywhere in the world can learn a lesson from what an organisation named Silver Chain is doing in Australia.
Western Australia is the largest state in Australia by a very wide margin. Despite its enormous size, it’s one of the least population-dense. The size and presence of large, remote regions makes it difficult at best to deliver healthcare services across Western Australia.
Silver Chain is a nonprofit organisation tasked with delivering in-home care to residents in Western Australia. The organisation is one of the largest in-home health and care providers in Australia. They have over 3,000 staff and 400 volunteers, and work to keep over 74,000 people in their homes and community every year. To ensure that they could provide quality healthcare services to patients in remote areas, and to ensure that their home healthcare providers were trained and part of the team, Silver Chain turned to video teleconferencing solutions in telemedicine implementations.
Utilising telemedicine, Silver Chain’s home care clients can receive healthcare services in their homes – or at any Silver Chain facility across Western Australia. These telemedicine solutions can also enable Silver Chain staff to use tablet devices or laptops to host video calls back to a medical professional during home visits for consults, specialty care or second opinions, if necessary.
But the benefits aren’t just in the delivery of patient care. According to Carole Bain, GM of Country Services at Silver Chain, 13 of Silver Chain’s 27 sites are in remote areas and managed by nurses working completely on their own. To train these nurses, Clinical Nurse Consultants would conduct multiple training sessions, or have staff fly into the company’s head office in Osborne Park.
Utilising video, all of the nurses can be trained at once, in simultaneous video sessions. This saves Silver Chain money by eliminating extraneous travel costs and also enables the nurses to focus on providing care to patients, not on traveling for training.
“Before we introduced Polycom video technology they actually felt quite isolated,” said Bain. “They now feel part of a team so it’s made a big difference to how they operate.”
Delivering healthcare services to patients in rural and remote areas is a problem across the globe, not just in Western Australia. Telemedicine implementations – such as the one being utilised by Silver Chain – are an effective and efficient way to ensure that all patients can receive quality care and that medical professionals can stay informed about the latest treatments, regardless of how remote they are. Whether it’s rural Nebraska, Antarctica or Western Australia, telemedicine is capable of defying the distance separating medical professionals from patients and ensuring quality care for all.
For additional information about Silver Chain and their telemedicine programme, visit this page and watch the following video case study from Polycom: