How the NBN can improve in-home health care

We’re the oldest we’ve ever been as a nation. We’re marrying older (if, at all), having fewer children and living longer. And while getting older generally means an increased need for medical care, that doesn’t mean older and chronically ill Australians want full-time, out-of-home care. Through affordable and effective remote care, the NBN can help older Aussies the lives they want at home.

NBN-enabled homes for the ageing population

The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (part of the University of Melbourne) believes there are a number of ways that technology can help older people maintain independent lives. IBES researchers believe internet-connected devices such as sensors to detect motion and falls can greatly assist older Aussies to keep their independence1.

Things like fall sensors can even send messages to family members and emergency services so they can respond quickly. Studies by IBES suggest1 other ‘smart’ or automated devices like garden watering sensors and floor-cleaning robots can also help older Australians enjoy a better quality of life. NBN Co offers a faster, more reliable way for medical technology to work its wonders.

The Government is exploring telehealth with the NBN

Telehealth services involve using video and internet-enabled devices to record data and monitor patients, especially for those who can’t easily access out-of-home care. The Australian government has invested $20.6 million in the Telehealth Pilots Programme2 to explore how the National Broadband Network can help make telehealth services an integral part of our healthcare system. While the findings are yet to be released, the researchers hope it will offer valuable insights on how to utilise telehealth for the wider population.

Use the NBN to monitor health from home

The days spent thumbing through year-old magazines while you wait for your GP to finish their last consult could soon be over. Using the NBN to frequently record and access personalised health information could help us to better monitor our own health. Researchers and GPs have already suggested doing this could vastly improve the monitoring of chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma, kidney disease or arthritis.

For older Aussies, it could mean spending more years at home rather in a nursing home. A diabetic could take daily blood pressure and blood sugar levels tests at home and have the data automatically sent to their GP. They could detect any abnormalities much earlier and therefore treat them earlier. Patients with access to superfast internet offered by the NBN could also video conference specialists from around the world. Imagine, the future of health services could allow you to visit a doctor from your lounge room couch.

The National Broadband Network is currently being rolled out across Australia. Find out when your address is set to be connected, and keep up-to-date with the latest NBN news.

References:

1. Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society, May 2012, ‘Smart technologies for older people’, http://broadband.unimelb.edu.au/publications/2012/Smart-technologies-for-older-people.pdf
2. Department of Health, Australian Government, February 2014, ‘Telehealth Pilots Programme’, http://health.gov.au/ehealth-nbntelehealth