Technology enhances home care

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Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Canada nurse Bernice Little viewed Mrs. McCrane’s open wound with concern. The wound simply didn’t appear to be healing as she knew it should. As she considered dressing the wound she wished she could get more information on the patient’s file or confer with a colleague. A new agreement between VON Canada and IBM will mean that Bernice Little will have that opportunity in the future. It may even mean that she’ll be able to show the wound on a monitor to another health provider.

Currently, most home care nurses travel several kilometres a day and work in isolation from their peers. This makes it difficult for them to seek even the most basic advice. Contrast that situation to hospital settings where a range of peers and other experts are readily available and the challenges of effectively delivering home care become apparent.

With the introduction of this new technology Bernice and other VON nurses will eventually get the information they need when they need it. As the largest national not-for-profit home and community care provider in the country, not only will this better serve patient needs, but it will make the overall health-care system more efficient, potentially eliminating needless trips to the doctors or hospitals while ensuring a high standard of care.

Home health care is the fastest growing sector in health care and as the Canadian population ages, demand will increase. Approximately 900,000 Canadians regularly access home care. Between 1995 and 2002, the number of Canadians receiving home care increased by more than 60 per cent.

VON Canada is under going a transformation to help meet this demand and as the nation becomes interconnected through technology, the technology will continue to play a key role in the evolution of health care.

Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of this is the need for home health-care organizations to understand the long term goal of integration within the larger health sector. Today the home and community care sector, much like Bernice Little, operates in isolation from other segments. By creating an electronic platform that will be compatible with provincial systems VON Canada will be poised to contribute to a future electronic health record.

VON Canada is also leveraging the latest technology to provide staff much needed data on best practices, health outcomes and patient satisfaction. By comparing the data gathered on practices in various provinces the organization and provincial governments will be in a better position to develop improved standards of care and delivery and more effective policy creation.

So while this initiative represents a significant step for VON Canada, it also represents the first necessary steps for the sector and the health care system in general.

In the current economic climate investing to make this a reality makes perfect sense. Homecare organizations cannot continue to deliver care in the ways that we have in the past. Not only is it not sustainable, but it’s not what Canadians want. Institutional care is meant for acute cases, yet hospital beds are often occupied by people who could easily receive care at home if the right supports were in place. In some instances, those supports do not even require a health professional, yet a much needed hospital bed is occupied because there are no resources available outside of the institutional setting.

At VON Canada we know that records are only as good as the information put into them. When you consider the rapid growth of the home and community care sector combined with the increasing desire of Canadians to live, age and die in their homes it seems obvious that integration will soon become a necessity.