For someone who suffers from a chronic disease, the local hospital can become an unwanted second home.
The burden of regular visits to doctors and specialists can easily compound an already debilitating medical condition.
For hospital operators, the cost of treating frequent visitors outstrips the price of all other patients combined.
This is why Queensland’s West Moreton Health and Hospital Service decided chronic disease sufferers should top its priority list for a personalised telehealth push, which it has dubbed MeCare.
The public health service delivers healthcare to roughly 252,000 people in the West Moreton catchment, but in 2014-15, treating just 200 of its most acute patients cost it $12 million.
Just 5 percent of patients that fall into this high-needs bracket are consuming on average 50 percent of the hospital budget.
“This is not sustainable,” CIO Nasa Walton says.
She realised that when this group of patients can stay at home, everyone wins, driving West Moreton to team up with Philips and become an Australian guinea pig for its integrated tailored ambulatory care (ITAC) telehealth solution.
The deployment, which went live last July, is based around a suite of bluetooth-enabled health devices and a secure tablet installed in a patient’s home - alongside blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and weight scales - that wirelessly transmit vital stats back to a hub of clinicians monitoring treatment.
It means participants with chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, chronic heart disease, and chronic kidney disease can strap on their own blood pressure monitor rather than making the trip to the hospital ward.
The Philips platform creates a dashboard of each patient’s daily circumstances for easy viewing, and boasts a specialist algorithm that can predict a deterioration in patient conditions before it happens, alerting doctors.
At the West Moreton end, Walton has wrestled the cloud-based Philips solution - which is hosted on Salesforce and Amazon platforms outside of Australia - into a shape that will pass all the Queensland government’s security standards and healthcare privacy laws.
The health service says it now has permission to deploy the solution from cloud hosting all around the world.
West Moreton expects to recruit 200 patients to the scheme by the end of this month, and is aiming to reduce preventable hospital admissions for its chronic disease sufferers up to 32 percent.
CEO Sue McKee said back in October “the potential in the MeCare model to not only change that, but improve patient outcomes could have pronounced implications industry-wide.”