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National roll out of Virtual Platform for Health Appointments

Attend Anywhere is a safe, simple video conferencing tool, initially used in Scotland and now elsewhere that enables health professionals to continue to see patients, albeit virtually for a video call consultation during the current COVID 19 epidemic. This allows people to see their clinician or health care professional in a safe and timely manner.

mPower, an EU INTERREG VA Programme funded project within the HSE has been at the forefront of supporting the HSE national roll-out of Attend Anywhere. mPower uses digital interventions to enable elderly people in remote areas to live safely and independently in their own homes by introducing them to various health and wellbeing technologies. The mPower project works across the Finn Valley in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Louth and South Monaghan.  The EU’s INTERREG VA Programme is managed on a cross-border basis by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

The mPower teams based in both Community Healthcare Organisation Area 1 and of Midlands Louth Meath Community Healthcare 8 are now working as core members of the National Virtual Health Team and are providing the training on how to use the platform nationally. In the last month alone, the team have trained over 2900 clinicians and health care professionals and continue the twice-daily virtual training sessions. In addition, the team provide the support necessary to adopt Attend Anywhere at a local level, specifically within the mPower project catchment areas.

The mPower team were well versed in the use of Attend Anywhere through pioneering trials over the last several months in pockets of the service. Last November (2019) mPower set up the first trial to use the platform for a Pain Clinic in Sligo / Leitrim as well as for a ground-breaking virtual pulmonary rehabilitation exercise programme in Drogheda. In February this year, a trial of virtual physio consultations commenced in Cavan Monaghan. In March before the Covid-19 crisis, the team also set up the Physiotherapy Team at St Joseph’s Community Hospital, Donegal.

To date, CHO Area 1 (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan & Cavan) now have 47 virtual waiting rooms and 155 registered professionals registered to use the Attend Anywhere platform as part of their service provision.

Julie Bellew, Deputy IT Delivery Director for the HSE said:

“This rapid growth from only 2 active waiting rooms in April 2020 shows the dedication and professionalism at play here. A key enabler for us has been the openness and support from the Scottish Technology Enabled Care (TEC) team who have supported us throughout this process whenever we have needed it. I am so very proud of the work the mPower team are doing. Their flexibility and adaptability mean that this work will have a tremendous impact across the country at this time. This is enabled by the creativity and innovation so evident from this collective partnership approach.’’

The different teams who are now set up range from the Community Physios to the Child and Adult Mental Health Services, and from Audiology service using the platform for virtual hearing aid fittings to Dietetics clinics.

The platform has been so well received that the more the sector hear about it, the more they want to access it as soon as possible.

Moya Ferguson, a Senior Physiotherapist from St.Joseph’s Hospital, Stranorlar said:

“Attend Anywhere has enabled us to actively engage with our clients face to face via video call. We have found it to be a great adjunct to physiotherapy. We have been able to check clients range of movement, their gait, provide home exercise programmes and progress their rehabs such as getting them off crutches and sticks.”

The service user experience has been hugely positive too. One service user from Donegal said “The video call was very good. It gave me reassurance that I was doing the exercises correctly and helped me feel more confident. I wouldn’t have been able to see the physio otherwise, because the department is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.” Another said, “It was helpful that the physio could see me doing my exercises, I found it very good.” 

And a service user’s daughter commented: “Very beneficial, as the physio could see my mother in her home and was able to identify some of the issues she would have such as a step between two rooms, a chair causing an obstruction and mats on the floor that might be a trip hazard.”

Wendy Rutherford, Implementation Lead for the Finn Valley area CHO 1 said 

“It has been a very exciting, challenging and rewarding experience supporting the HSE National rollout of Attend Anywhere. The gains for service providers and service users are considerable as we are enabling effective communication and care provision through the medium of eHealth whilst under pandemic restrictions.”

Monica Ramsey, who works as Community Navigator alongside Wendy and has been working as part of the EU INTERREG VA-funded project, mPower, since July 2018 expanded to say:

“This has been a very busy time to be working on the mPower Project.  Due to our experience of trialling Attend Anywhere, my colleagues and I are now on the HSE National Virtual Health Team and have been supporting the HSE roll out of Attend Anywhere. The opportunity to bring knowledge gained through the mPower Project to a national team has been very rewarding”.

Elaine Aughey, also a Community Navigator with the project and focusing on the Drogheda area since August 2018 said:

“It has been strange being considered an expert in using the Attend Anywhere platform but using the experience, knowledge and learning I gained on the mPower project  has enabled me to play a productive part in the National rollout of this vital virtual health service.”

“Due to the rapid roll-out taking place within the HSE and in the CHO 1 area I feel that as a Community Navigator, the project beneficiaries in the Finn Valley area will be able to be directed to their clinics more expediently than if they were waiting on appointments as many of the services due to the COVID-19 pandemic are curtailed. Beneficiaries have the reassurance of being able to see their clinician via video link resulting in anxiety about their progress being reduced.”  

Underlining the importance of the project, Gina McIntyre CEO of the SEUPB said:

“As lockdown has demonstrated this new communication tool will be an invaluable resource in the delivery of much-needed treatments, like physiotherapy and mental health support services. It forms an integral part of what the EU INTERREG VA funded mPower project was set-up to do, which is to provide digital interventions for the elderly who live in remote, difficult to reach locations.  I am delighted to hear that the project staff have been at the forefront of training in the use of Attend Anywhere, and I have no doubt about the positive impact this will have for so many of our vulnerable people at this difficult time, and into the future.”Match-funding for the mPower project has been provided by the Scottish Government as well as the Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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Article taken from https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/media/pressrel/national-roll-out-of-virtual-platform-for-health-appointments-%E2%80%93-training-delivered-by-mpower.html

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