Telehealth is important in aged care, but staff must be properly trained to optimise its effectiveness, Bianca Roberts from Aged Care News reports.
As we move toward a more digitally enabled future, Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) are still lagging behind in their uptake of telehealth services for their residents.
Ongoing funding and support for methods of digital healthcare delivery are required with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommending that the government expands Medicare funding to facilitate continued access to telehealth appointments (including in-home care) and asking that providers have the necessary equipment and staff capability to support telehealth services.
Dr Annie Banbury, Head of Clinical Research here at Coviu, spoke with Aged Care News about this very topic. Annie believes that more training is needed to support aged care staff in transitioning to a 21st-century model of care stating, "there is a need now for nurses to really understand what we call the ‘digital ecosystem’, and how all these pieces fit together across the whole pipeline of health services. Ensuring that they have the skills now to work in a digital age is really important."
In order to integrate telehealth services into aged care in a sustainable and conducive way that provides high-quality of care, Annie Banbury says that training must be provided across the board to all aged care workers.
Upskilling is especially important for registered nurses, who are often responsible for referring residents for further consultation with GPs and/or specialists, Aged Care News Reports.
“There is a need now for nurses to really understand what we call the ‘digital ecosystem’, and how all these pieces fit together across the whole pipeline of health services. Ensuring that they have the skills now to work in a digital age is really important.”, says Banbury.
There are associations as well as the Federal Government that are declaring the importance of digital literacy which Banbury commends however, there are currently no standardised modes of education to ensure these digital health frameworks are materialised, nor is there any regulation in place to ensure that equitable standards of digital care are enabled nationally.
"Maybe training could come in the form of online courses, something that healthcare workers can fit in more easily because you can’t take a whole group of nurses off the floor to do seminar training", says Banbury.
Annie believes the core essence of the training is "communicating how telehealth can strengthen models of multidisciplinary care". As we know, one of the main benefits of telehealth is timely access to care and this still reigns true in Aged Care.
“By using telehealth, you can provide more timely care, because in many instances a residents has to wait a period of time before their GPs can come in to see them in person."
Annie Banbury tells Aged Care News that nurses should be encouraged to use telehealth to keep families connected with their older loved one’s care.
“So many of us are living far away from where our parents are, but we still are heavily involved with decisions that happen make decisions about their care. That’s another real benefit of telehealth, because a family member can be brought in and can attend the consultation, no matter where they are located”, Banbury says.
Other than training how can we move forward with making telehealth in aged care a reality? Banbury tells Aged Care News that Government should support the provision of telehealth, and the support from nurses on the ground, through targeted Medicare Benefits Scheme items that compensate healthcare workers for partnering with each other to provide quality consultations, embracing a collaborative approach.
“We would strongly advocate that there is funding for that to happen because we know that residential aged care facilities are stretched to their limits."