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Aging population could benefit most from NBN

Digital business partner says technology can improve quality of life for aged care residents

By Hamish Barwick, Computerworld Australia
September 15, 2011 09:05 PM ET

Computerworld Australia - The opportunity to help Australia's aging population with relevant technology must be taken account for in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), a KPMG digital business national managing partner has argued.

Speaking at an Enterprise Ireland trade mission in Sydney, Malcolm Alder, said that aged healthcare was a "burning issue" and the infrastructure provided by the NBN would deliver technological advances that could help aged care.

Alder shared the findings of an e-health pilot that he was involved with at a rest home in Foster, NSW, this year.

"The staff had been there 15 to 20 years and were not overly computer illiterate," he said "The thought that a whole bunch of [e-health] technology was going to descend on them was scary."

However, when the staff discovered that the technology was going to make their life easier and the quality of the residents that they were caring for better, their attitude changed, he said.

The rollout included radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging of lifting equipment, iPad tablets for use by staff and interactive games for residents.

"Say a resident falls over and is lying on the ground, you don't just lift her up because she is likely to break a hip, so carers use lifting equipment," Alder said.

"Typically what happens is people don't know where that equipment is and so they go running around looking for it. With RFID, you go to the nearest [computer] screen and you can locate it within two minutes, instead of 10."

The iPad implementation was undertaken so that staff could type up patient notes straight away rather than writing paper reports at the end of the shift which could take up to 40 minutes to complete.

In addition, the residents were given access to interactive Wii games such as golf/tennis and also played interactive tournaments of scrabble against other care facilities who had rolled out similar e-health programs.

Alder said that as the NBN rollout gains momentum one possibility that will be opened is the implementation of machine to machine (M2M) remote monitoring of elderly people who chose to live at home and may be alone.

"For example, if someone made a cup of tea in the morning and the kettle hasn't moved within an hour there could be an alarm that goes off and activates remote sensors in clothing," he said.

"This would activate cameras so someone could see if the person has had an accident and is lying on the floor."

Alder was involved with the NBN tender process including the fibre to the node tender and the implementation tender over the space of 18 months.

"The way I think about these issues such as e-health is that we should look forward to when the NBN is built and the infrastructure is in place. The key thing is how we use it to address the national issues that are in front of us," he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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