"It was very easy to use Microsoft Lync; just follow the prompts and there you are. Generation-e were terrific and they were excited about it too, which added to our excitement."
Ann Turnbull, CEO Lynden Aged Care
Lynden Aged Care is a standalone not-for-profit residential aged care facility with the long-term goal of helping people see out the end of their lives with as little stress as possible. For residents of Lynden and all aged care facilities, lack of mobility is a chronic problem that directly affects their quality of life.
Abled bodied people often don't realise that immobile people have to be lifted every time they need to get out of their beds. This can equate to nursing staff having to move them many times each day.
When these people go out for the day, they are frightened of being dropped, they don't eat or take medications on time and they have difficulty with toileting. Not only do they experience trauma on the day from having their routine altered, but they worry about the impending ordeal the night before and often can't sleep after it is over. What complicates things even further is that their carers are often their spouses who have their own health issues to contend with.
Something as simple as a standard 15 minute consultation at the doctor’s office typically requires extensive planning and resource coordination, takes up most of the day, disrupts scheduled medications and meals, and causes significant distress.
With Lynden planning to expand in the near future, the facility recognised the need to seek out new technologies that would help them achieve efficiency gains while continuing to provide a high standard of care for their residents.
Four years ago, Lynden was an organisation with a single email address for correspondence and an attitude toward technology that “almost bordered on fear” according to Ann Turnbull, Lynden’s CEO. Today, the facility finds itself embracing technology at every turn. It has an electronic medication management system as well as an electronic communication system running off the robust wireless network which services the entire facility; both of which have contributed significantly to improving efficiencies.
Lynden became aware of telehealth when the Australian government began promoting the initiative in 2011. The implications of greater accessibility to health care for residents and improved quality of care were obvious to Lynden. They saw the adoption of telehealth as a natural progression along their technology journey and invited Generation-e to scope and deliver a customised Lync telehealth solution.
Generation-e designed a telehealth solution using Microsoft Lync Online which is a part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. On Lynden’s end, the Lync Online client runs off an all-in-one touchscreen computer.
To keep the process as simple as possible for staff and residents, Generation-e customised the Lync Online client for application within the aged care setting. As soon as the computer is turned on, Microsoft Lync runs automatically without the need for a keyboard or mouse. With just the push of a button, residents can now simply connect with their doctor or specialist via an online conference.
In these meetings, both parties are able to access the full range of collaboration features Microsoft Lync has to offer including file sharing, whiteboarding, calendaring, messaging, inviting other participants, taking notes via One Note and recording if necessary.
All telehealth sessions are conducted in full audio and high definition video which provides a lifelike collaboration experience and does not compromise the quality of the consultation. At the end of the session, the video screen is turned off and the resident is immediately able to get back to his or her daily routine.
The option for residents to attend consultations without leaving the facility has been incredibly valuable for Lynden and for its residents.
Because preparing for, attending and recovering from a 15 minute consultation can effectively disrupt a patient’s routine for several days, being able to attend such an appointment without leaving Lynden’s facility significantly improves the quality of life for them. Not only that, but the doctor gets the opportunity to assess the patient in a stress-free environment with his carers and nurses present so nothing gets lost in translation which contributes to providing better quality care for the patient as well.
The administrative side of the consultation has also become streamlined as compliance issues and forms can be processed faster, plus diagnostics can easily be taken and reported back to the doctor in real time. The doctor no longer needs to remember to send a summary of the appointment to the nurse nor does the nurse need to rely on the residents' family or carer to understand what happened at the consultation or to explain why the doctor wants medications or treatments to be adjusted.
Further, embracing the Lync Online telehealth solution has allowed Lynden to adjust workflows and look for ways to capitalise on internal process improvement in order to increase business outcomes and lower the cost of delivery.
The Lync Online telehealth solution has made Lynden eligible for an upfront $6,000 government incentive in addition to receiving $60 for every telehealth consultation conducted at the facility. Comparatively, offsite consultations entail a great deal of inconvenience as well as additional costs, all without any compensation. Overall, the incentives have helped Lynden achieve an immediate ROI on the project.
As telehealth in Australia gains momentum, helped along by companies like Generation-e and technologies like Microsoft Lync, an increasing number of Australians will reap the benefits. With more doctors engaging in virtual consults and the NBN providing increasingly fast internet speeds, many of the current barriers to medical services for Australians living in rural and remote areas or suffering from limited mobility will fall to the wayside. The result, it is hoped, is that patients will be able to live in their own homes longer while experiencing a higher standard of care than ever before.