Digital direction for Chemo@home

26/04/2018 - 08:10

A 2016 Rising Stars winner has launched a series of new upgrades to its home-based service, placing it at the forefront of digital health.

Lorna Cook (left) and Julie Adams have plans to expand into Melbourne next year. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Health records in the cloud, self-monitoring IV pumps, electronic group training and online customer portals are among the technologies Chemo@home has introduced as it moves towards a more digital service.

The home-based chemotherapy provider’s co-founder, Lorna Cook, said the increasing uptake of digital health options would improve safety and efficiency for staff and patients.

“That has been one of the things not only the health minister but the premier has been highlighting – digital health is the way things are going,” Ms Cook told Business News.

A nurse and MBA graduate, Ms Cook established Chemo@home, a 2016 Rising Stars winner, four years ago with oncology pharmacist Julie Adams.

Disproving the belief chemotherapy has to be administered at a hospital, Chemo@home has grown to deliver about 300 treatments per month, with six nurses in Western Australia and two in Adelaide; and there are plans to expand into Darwin, Melbourne and New Zealand.

Ms Cook said a series of recent digital upgrades had bolstered its safety standards further.

“Firstly, we implemented a cloud-based electronic health record software system,” she said.

“This means our nurses see patients in their home and then document notes on the Samsung Galaxy.”

Ms Cook said data was secure and there was no need for a paper trail thanks to the new system, sourced from Australian company CareZone, which customised the product to fit the chemo provider’s purpose.

Despite this seeming a logical solution, Ms Cook said she knew of no hospitals effectively operating this way.

Chemo@home has also introduced new patient IV pumps used to administer medication, in combination with a monitoring system provided by Australia-based medical software manager MedNet.

“It tells us what all the oncology regimens are,” Ms Cook said.

“There are lots of different types of chemotherapy and they’re all mixed and matched for different types of cancer.

“It’s all electronically controlled, and also, when the nurse comes back at the end of the day, all of that data is uploaded and tells us exactly what’s happened so there can be no disputing processes and no mistakes.

“That was an expensive exercise but worth it to make us an elite service.”

Moving staff training to an online platform has been another milestone in the move to digital for Chemo@home.

Ms Cook said working with WA-based online platform Velpic allowed it to manage its staff more efficiently and reduce costs.

“Our nurse educator is able to create learning programs or download ones they (Velpic) already have, and from that we can schedule all our courses across the country,” she said.

“Like all hospitals, we have a nurse educator, but we’re literally teaching nurses one on one, so it’s very costly.

“Now our nurse educator can delegate all the education to the nurses without having to have them in front of her.

“It’s a really good way of managing a geographically diverse workforce.”

Virtual reality headsets could also be on the cards from Velpic, with the potential to simulate nursing practices, Ms Cook said.

“That’s pretty exciting and a new way of teaching nurses how to administer chemotherapy,” she said.

“We’re also just in the throes of setting up video conferencing for patients, being able to provide the patients with, say, access to physiotherapists, a GP, or dietician through video conferencing.”

Working with Perth-based technology solutions provider Illuminance is another line of defence for Chemo@home.

“They come and look at all your electronic devices and they pull it all together,” Ms Cook said.

“It will provide a patients portal, so patients can admit themselves to our service.”


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