The technology is designed to remove geographical barriers and offers regional, rural, and remote residential aged care facilities increased access to qualified clinicians, 24 hours, seven days a week.
Developed by McLean Care with input from specialists at Deakin University, iAgeHealth is a clinical and technological solution designed to bridge the gap of workforce shortages and enable virtual inroom clinical, allied health specialties and diagnostic capabilities to provide older Australians in regional, rural and remote communities access to specialist clinical services ultimately improving health outcomes.
The service is now available to residential aged care providers across the country to sign up in an effort to fasttrack a national solution to address the urgent challenge of access to clinical services for residential aged care in regional, rural and remote communities.
McLean Care Chief Executive Officer Sue Thomson says the service will revolutionise the level of clinical assessment and treatment offered in regional, rural and remote areas to older Australians and increase the opportunity for quality health care.
“Older persons should have access to care and services they need to keep well, regardless of their geographical location,” Thomson said.
“One in three Australians live in regional, rural, and remote communities and have poorer access to health services, poorer health outcomes, higher levels of disease and lower rates of life expectancy. A big reason behind these outcomes is the inequity of services available. Older people living in rural and remote communities simply don’t have the same access to clinical care because of their location.
“Those living in rural and remote areas will understand how far the distances they have to travel to access healthcare can be. For example, we regularly hear reports from within the aged care industry that older people in residential aged care can wait more than two weeks to see a physiotherapist. With this new technology, a remote physio can assess and treat older people within 24 hours, particularly in urgent cases such as after a fall.”
Utilising a “virtual” hub of specialist clinicians based anywhere in Australia, iAgeHealth provides access to a broader pool of staff not limited by geographics. This includes 24/7 access to registered nurses and 7-day access to a multidisciplinary allied health team led by a nurse practitioner, including physiotherapists, dieticians, and other allied health professionals working collaboratively with registered nurses. The service also offers clinical specialisations such as wound care, diabetes
management, chronic health management, and more.
iAgeHealth provides a full end-to-end diagnostic, treatment and care management process that is informed by a range of integrated clinical IoT devices. The time for consultation will be allocated based on urgency of care required but often residents will be seen in less than an hour from the initial request. Clinicians can assess the resident in real time and develop clinical treatment plans tailored to the individual resident’s needs.
Preliminary data from the trials shows significantly reduced wait times for access to services, improved clinical and health outcomes, enhanced holistic healthcare management through a multidisciplinary team model and high degrees of resident satisfaction.
“This service provides a timely, safe and quality solution that will ultimately improve the health outcomes of older persons in rural, regional and remote communities,” Thomson said.
By 2025, there will be between 20,000 to 40,000 vacant positions per year across the health, disability and aged care sectors.* The aged care sector is competing with the health care sector, the disability sector and other community nursing services to attract and retain sufficient nursing staff.
“With the introduction of 24/7 nursing mandates from 1 July 2023 following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report findings, a solution was needed to support timely access to qualified clinicians and the allied health workforce in rural and remote areas. It’s important to be clear that iAgeHealth does not replace the in-person workforce, however, it can support it and provide a safe, viable alternative when registered nurses are not available on-site,” Thomson said.
Indeed, the platform offers a range of additional benefits to address workforce challenges.
“Think of holiday and sick cover, finding a qualified Registered Nurse at the last minute or for a short time is not easy, and agency nurses and FIFO models are costly and can come at a detriment to continuity of care for residents,” Ms Thomson said.
“The service can even provide collegial support for sites with less experienced registered nurses, or where access to particular specialisations such as wound care will result in improved clinical outcomes.”
Building on over 60 years of experience as an aged care provider and an award-winning track record with technology-related products, McLean Care brought together a team of leading experts and researchers from technology, aged care, health, and digital health fields to work on a solution that has culminated in the launch of iAgeHealth.
“This is a solution that has been designed by the industry, for the industry,” Thomson said.
The success of the initial pilots will see the deployment of iAgeHealth on a national level with a broader group of trailblazers will be offered the opportunity to sign-up for the service from December 2023.