DIRECT LINE: MeCare manager Paul Kemp.
DIRECT LINE: MeCare manager Paul Kemp.

Chronically ill but not in hospital, here's why

CHRONICALLY ill Brassall resident Lynette Johnston's medical history is long and complex.

The 72-year-old is legally blind, suffers a lung condition, asthma, osteoarthritis and diabetes, among other conditions.

Yet, Mrs Johnston hasn't stepped foot inside a hospital for 10 months.

She is one of the 100 West Moreton residents now participating in a revolutionary healthcare program, launched in 2016 called MeCare.

MeCare is a personalised support and care program for people, like Mrs Johnston, with complex medical issues.

The program will also ultimately reduce the financial burden of caring for the chronically ill, who represent 5% of the population but soak up 50% of the resources - about $235 million.

Instead of waiting in emergency rooms, occupying beds and taking up staff time, patients like Mrs Johnston can check their vitals - such as weight and blood pressure - at home on specialised devices.

Those devices are connected to WiFi and the information is automatically uploaded to a cloud, then analysed by a team of specially trained nurses working out of a control centre at the health plaza.

Mrs Johnston was one of the first to sign up to the program.

"I haven't been to hospital since February," Mrs Johnston said.

"Before MeCare I would have been there every month or two weeks. I'd be at home for a short amount of time and at the hospital for a long time."

Mrs Johnston uses in-home care management technology, provided by MeCare's partner Philips, to check her weight, blood pressure, blood sugar level and breathing capacity each day.

Once uploaded to her tablet, the information is automatically relayed to the MeCare team, who are ready to respond to any inconsistencies that may signal the downward spiral of her health.

"It means that I know someone is looking out for me,'' Mrs Johnston said.

"I've now got a health action plan so if something does go wrong, I know how to respond."

As well as having regular virtual contact with a nurse, Ms Johnston said she also had access to a wider MeCare support team including a doctor, psychologist, social worker and pharmacist.

Mrs Johnston said her only wish was that the MeCare program could be extended to provide weekend support.

"If I ever won $1 million I'd give it to MeCare - not just to help me but to help others too.''

MeCare manager Paul Kemp said less chronically ill people had required hospitalisation since MeCare was introduced.

"By analysing the findings of the program's earliest adopters, we have found that MeCare has effectively helped chronically ill people manage their health challenges at home, without frequent hospitalisation as they had before the program was implemented," Mr Kemp said.

"Less people have required hospitalisation, and those that do go to hospital are staying for shorter periods than before."

Mr Kemp said his team had worked with Philips to assess the merits of the program before expanding it to a larger group.

The program is expected to be rolled out across the state and eventually the nation.

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