Nursing home wires up


Published in Australian IT – Written by Jennifer Foreshew

AGED-CARE provider PresCare investigated a range of electronic aids for residents at its newest Queensland site.

After trialling the use of wireless radio-frequency identification chips at several of its complexes, PresCare built a $30 million flagship facility at Carina, in Brisbane, offering state-of-the-art technology services.

Known as Vela, the Carina site, which will soon have its official opening, began taking residents in March and now has 54 occupants. It is expected to be fully occupied by Christmas.

Vela offers video-on-demand, Foxtel, free-to-air TV and internet protocol phones and radio in residents’ rooms. The site has 154 beds, with $5.5m invested in technology alone.

PresCare technology director and chief financial officer Greg Skelton said the focus of the facility was improving safety and the in-room experience for residents.

“We were finding that a lot of our residents were having falls and they could not get to a fixed point, so they were often stranded calling out for help,” Mr Skelton said.

“We put this RFID solution together so that we can actually find the residents within a 3m proximity of wherever they are.”

The technology, designed and installed by Queensland communications company Surecom, integrates enterprise location tracking from AeroScout, nurse call, camera surveillance, building automation, voice over internet protocol phones and internet protocol camera security, plus people and asset tracking.

Residents and key staff wear easy-to-use wristbands or necklaces, which are monitored through a series of sensor points throughout the complex. Residents push a personal alert button for help. Staff can locate someone quickly, as in the case of a resident with dementia leaving defined boundaries.

Mr Skelton said the system also showed which staff answered a call and how long they took.

“The technology allows us to escalate the process — so if the lower level staff don’t respond, it gets escalated to the nurse unit manager,” he said.

A ministry of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland, PresCare has six facilities and runs 415 residential beds, along with about 500 community government packages. There are 800 staff.

“On top of the nurse-call technology, we have put in more things like security cameras and swipe card systems so that the actual facility is much more secure,” Mr Skelton said.

“It is less invasive technology but certainly a step up in being able to provide good-quality care.”

The cost-effectiveness of the multiple services is underpinned by core ethernet switches from Extreme Networks that simplify the enterprise network and handle video, wireless, IP telephony, IP surveillance and data traffic.

PresCare uses RFID technology at three of its six sites and is planning to secure an organisation-wide licence for 1000 resident tags by the close of the next financial year. It is also about to offer residents Skype through internet links in their rooms.

Mr Skelton said the technology provided a secure environment for residents, with both physical and clinical safety measures, as well as a better in-room experience.

In the next five or so years, there would be a shift towards baby boomers needing care and demanding services not traditionally available from nursing homes. “In terms of the staffing approach, over time I believe we will save reasonable money — a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year — but for me, if it was my mother in the facility, I would want to know the staff were going to get to her as quickly as possible.”

PresCare is now looking more into the community area and would like to provide a preventive health mechanism for in the home.

“We are currently looking at ways of making the device even smarter and taking blood pressure and pulse rates to keep people in their home for longer,” Mr Skelton says.

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