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Bits & Bytes

Hands-free nursing through voice activation Aged care software vendor HealthMetrics has released a voice-activated, hands-free communication system that allows nurses to document care processes at the bedside by speaking into a lightweight headset, with the notes then integrated into HealthMetrics’ eCase clinical software. Based on the AccuNurse technology from US company Vocollect Healthcare Solutions, the voice recognition technology allows for a two-way dialogue between the nurse and the system, with the nurse able to ask questions and call for assistance as well as receive prompts on care processes. While the underlying voice recognition technology is based on an algorithm originally developed by Nuance Communications, makers of DragonDictate software, AccuNurse is not a dictation system. Rather, it acts as a “clinician in the ear”, allowing the nurse to ask questions and receive a response in real-time. It also has the ability to block out ambient noise and only recognise the user’s voice commands. HealthMetrics has rebadged the technology for the Australian aged care market as eCase Hands-Free. HealthMetrics CEO Steven Strange said four of his aged care clients had committed to trialling the system later this year, and there are also plans to launch a similar system for acute care nurses. Mr Strange said one of the main benefits of the technology is that it allows nurses to complete their documentation at the bedside, without having to enter data into a computer or a paper chart. “They are also able to page other staff if they need assistance, without having to leave the patient’s bedside,” Mr Strange said. The headset leads to a lightweight receiver that can be attached to a belt, and which communicates with a server by WiFi.

Telstra Health plans to ditch the pilot and roll out the jumbo Telstra Health plans to bring to market an interoperable mechanism by which the data held in aged care, general practice and pharmacy software systems is more easily shared, and is also intent on developing affordable solutions for integrated telehealth services for independent living. Telstra Health’s two community care leads – former Victorian minister for health Bronwyn Pike and former Australian Home Care Services CEO Michael Boyce – told the ITAC conference in Hobart recently that they had spent the last year speaking to as many people in the aged and community care sectors as possible, and had now developed a strategy to improve information sharing and bring new products to those markets. Telstra Health plans to use the technology developed by companies it has purchased or taken a stake in – such as pharmacy market leader Fred IT, community and primary care software vendor HealthConnex, and acute care vendor Verdi – to develop infrastructure that links all of the healthcare sectors together for better information sharing. Mr Boyce told the conference that one of the problems in the existing primary and community

care sectors was that it was a low-return industry with many small IT innovators. The customer market isn’t that large, he said, and there is an oversupply of vendors. He said the sectors were also plagued by misaligned incentives and payment systems, which consumerdirected care (CDC) would hopefully help, but the main problem was fragmentation.

“We know that Telstra has a lot of sophisticated technology and capability but it is not really about technology.” “Somehow we need to be able to connect the dots and sometimes it needs a big player with a reasonable balance sheet to play a part in solving those problems,” Mr Boyce said. One area Telstra Health plans to target is to create a link between healthcare practitioners involved in the care of residents of aged care facilities, including their GPs and pharmacists. While aged care, general practice and pharmacy software all holds information about individual patients and residents, that information is not shared.

Telstra plans to provide a solution to that problem, Mr Boyce said. “We have infrastructure coming across … [because] to put GP, aged care and pharmacy together we will need to put new infrastructure in place, and we plan to. “You have a number of software solutions for aged care, vendors that provide clinical management software and medication management software. That information exists, it is online but basically it is not shared outside the business operation. “You’ve got GP software like Best Practice and Medical Director and others. That information also supports health data around patients who are also residents in aged care, but that information is not shared. “You then have a pharmacy with a pharmacy dispensing system. They hold information around a patient’s medication and that patient happens to be a resident of a residential aged care facility. That information, depending on what software you have in the residential aged care facility, is partially shared. “So what Telstra is about through Telstra Health is connecting those three softwares to provide real-time,

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