Avoiding hospitalisations, amputations and even death are just some of the benefits providers are seeing from new digital technology that assists older people living with a range of health conditions.

Clinical Nurse Consultants (CNC) equipped with the AR (Augmented Reality) Smart Glasses (Realwear Navigator 500) can significantly reduce referral times and expand their ability to detect and address a broad range of clinical issues.

The smart glasses are controlled from a centralised Command Centre staffed by clinical specialists including General Practitioners, Geriatricians, nutritionists and many more – allowing them to treat clients in real-time with expert input and oversight.

Aged care provider Uniting NSW, ACT completed an eight-week pilot trial using the glasses which uses Thermal Cameras and the TeamViewer (Frontline Assist) Software Solution to leverage technology to transform healthcare delivery.

Uniting CNC Erika Balasa said she enjoyed using the technology as it allows her to call in a specialist, GP and or the family whilst reviewing the resident, whilst her client can see what she is seeing/reviewing in real-time during the consult.

“It’s telehealth on a whole other level. We do telehealth via tablets or phones but imagine using the AR glasses hands-free,” she said.

“The camera quality is exceptional. Everything is hands-free and uses voice command, which means I can attend a dressing, provide education, or even provide comfort by holding a resident’s hand.”

“Having worked in aged care for over 10 years I have lost count of the many times the residents decline hospitalisation. This technology allows us to avoid hospitalisations, reducing the impact on the hospital system and on the resident/client.”

Aged care client Valerie Busutil has a long history of complicated wounds resulting from a range of medical issues including diabetes which have left her bedridden. Valerie is excited to be able to be treated quickly and efficiently where she is comfortable.

“No way do I want to keep having to go to hospital, this is so much more comfortable for me, Valerie says.”

Hayley Ryan, Clinical Practice Lead for Uniting Senior Services, said the trial has been so successful the plan is to now roll the technology out to every single aged care home as soon as possible.

“In the first four weeks, we’ve seen incredible results with 42 referrals using just four of the AR Smart Glasses headsets, resulting in nine residents avoiding needing hospitalisation, one avoiding the need for an amputation, and a huge saving of 250 hours in staff travel time as well as significantly reducing the medical response time by 75%,” Ms Ryan said.

“The technology is a game-changer […] resulting in better health outcomes including reducing the need for hospitalisations and alleviating the burden on the healthcare system.

“This can include reducing the need for restrictive practice medications, particularly for those individuals living with dementia, and prevent the need for amputations with prompt diagnosis and treatment of wounds, including the incidence of potential premature deaths.”

Ramesh Raghavan, Digital Strategy Lead, shared how Uniting is innovating with leading-edge technologies to enable a shift from a reactive towards a predictive care model.

“To ensure long-term viability of our innovations we have adopted a design thinking approach to ensure ‘fit for purpose’ solutions in our Residential and Home Care services, Mr Raghavan said.

“In the next phase of innovation, we are planning to use Artificial Intelligence-based technology with the glasses to help digitally transcribe and analyse the clinical notes between the clinical nurse consultants and the Command Centre clinicians.”

Uniting aims to roll this technology out to every Residential Aged Care home across its network in NSW and the ACT initially and then eventually to ensure clinical staff working in the Home and Community Care sector also have access.