Western Australian health provider, Silver Chain has rolled out Samsung tablets with video conferencing software to monitor patients who may be thousands of kilometres from their nearest clinic.
Silver Chain's CIO Lee Davis said the catalyst for the introduction of video conferencing at the not-for-profit organisation was a merger with South Australian health firm RDNS in 2011.
“We were now operating across two states. We knew that travel could get out of control and as a not-for-profit, we couldn’t justify that level of expenditure,” he said. Since that time, Silver Chain has also expanded into New South Wales and Queensland.
After going to market in 2011, the organisation selected Polycom’s Real Presence 7000 video conferencing units, which are located at its clinics across the country.
In South Australia, Silver Chain offers a service called Virtual Hospital. This is where clients are loaned a Samsung tablet with Polycom video conferencing software installed so that a nurse can witness the patient take their medication.
“In the past, that would have required a nurse to go and deliver that to them. Provided we can read the packs that they pop the tablets out of or the bottle that they are opening, verify it is the right medication and witness them take it - that passes all of the requirements.”
In NSW, the organisation also provides the tablets and software to patients in palliative care.
“Again, we will loan the client a tablet and if they are in discomfort and they want to speak to one of our clinicians, they can do that using the video service.”
“We are doing a similar program [with tablets] in Queensland called Hospital in the Home. This is not replacing nurses visiting them, it just enables us to augment care,” Davis said.
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Davis said that its country business unit, which looks after remote areas in WA and support services for elderly people in their homes, have been the biggest supporters of video conferencing.
“Because the 27 sites are spread over such a large geography [in WA], some of them never get to have face-to-face meetings with their managers who are based in Perth- other than when they join the organisation.”
“Our WA general manager would have flown out to these places once a year, now she can do that via video conferencing because all 27 sites are connected.”
Video conferencing is also being used for client education ion WA. Silver Chain has several diabetes educators in the country business unit and, according to Davis, “there is no way they can cover a geography the size of WA.”
For example, if the diabetes educator is based in Bunbury, WA, they can speak to a client who may be thousands of kilometres away.
Davis added that the video conferencing is useful for business meetings as it is easier to gauge a staff member’s body language and reaction to questions.
“I speak to my managers, three of whom are in South Australia, one to one via video every week. We have a leadership group made up of 80 people from across the four states. These meetings happen every quarter so we’ve gone from four face-to-face leadership events to only one that is done in person,” he said.
This move to video conferencing for leadership group meetings has cut 25 flights and associated accommodation costs from the Silver Chain budget.
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