Virtual care set to be expanded as District hails hospital's success
Sydney Local Health District’s virtual hospital has reached an impressive milestone in a short timeframe, caring for 1000 patients since its inception in February this year.
It’s the first virtual hospital in New South Wales and its model of care combines the latest digital healthcare strategies with the District’s provision of care in the community.
“We launched our virtual hospital – rpavirtual – on February 3 with a 12-month roll-out plan. By March 11, we had rapidly redesigned our services to support the District’s COVID-19 response,” Miranda Shaw, rpavirtual’s acting general manager, said.
“We were the first local health district in New South Wales to provide virtual care for COVID-19 patients.
“And, as the pandemic ramped up, we became extremely busy. We’ve registered more than 500 COVID-19 patients so far. It’s the largest volume of COVID-19 patients actively managed by any single health service in New South Wales, if not Australia,” she said.
Patients have 24/7 access to rpavirtual’s Care Centre and a registered nurse contacts patients twice a day via video conferencing to assess, monitor and treat them as needed.
For COVID-19 negative patients who are in quarantine, the Care Centre has also begun to deliver antenatal, paediatric and drug and alcohol services as required in collaboration with specialist colleagues.
“We know now that patients respond well to virtual care – 80 per cent have said they felt confident at home knowing their symptoms were monitored daily; 89 per cent said the technologies used by rpavirtual improved their access to care and treatment,” Miranda said.
“I am proud of the way my team responded quickly to the crisis. We’ve now reached a significant milestone – 1000 virtual patients in a just a few months. I am confident that we can manage any challenge and continue to deliver patient-centred, high quality care.”
Initially, the Care Centre was staffed by four nurses. A select group of palliative care patients, adult patients with cystic fibrosis and patients at risk of recurring lower leg wounds were enrolled in the service.
Now, there are 35 Care Centre nurses, five Care Centre doctors, psychologists and social workers at rpavirtual along with a team of specialists from across the District who support the service behind-the-scenes.
And, Community Mental Health Services staff are now co-located with the Care Centre and will begin to provide some virtual services.
There are further expansion plans ahead.
“Over the next six months, we’d like to implement virtual programs to support the early discharge from hospital of patients with low back pain,” Miranda said.
“And, we’d like to support tuberculosis patients whose medication adherence needs to monitored and support the self-administration of sub-cutaneous immunoglobulin for patients who are immunosuppressed,” she said.
Planning for an e-ICU is also underway. rpavirtual and RPA’s intensive care unit are collaborating with Western and Far Western NSW Local Health Districts to provide intensivist support and health data monitoring as required.
A similar model is also being explored for Canterbury Hospital.