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Telehealth data helps guide terror attack response

Tuesday, 25 February 2020  
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Picture:  Homecare Medical chief executive Andrew Slater presenting at HiNZ Conference 2019 editor Rebecca McBeth


Homecare Medical tracked the impact of the Christchurch terror attack via the number and clinical themes of calls to its helpline and provided intelligence to help health services better plan their response.


Chief executive of the digital telehealth service provider Andrew Slater presented on the organisation’s response to the 15 March terror attack at HiNZ Conference 2019 in Hamilton last November.


He said Homecare Medical went into emergency response mode about 20 minutes after the first 111 call and rapidly brought online around 100 clinicians who work from home to support those on the frontline.


“We were able to then look at what was happening in the community based on what we were hearing from both ambulance and police, and start responding in a virtual way,” Slater said.


More than 120 patients were supported by Healthline nurses over the phone as they could not get in to Christchurch Hospital. Nurses continued to work over the weekend as a pre-triage for GP practices to ensure only the most acute patients were accessing services.


By geo-fencing the Canterbury region, the digital response team could send messages on behalf of Canterbury DHB telling people to stay at home and not attempt to access the health system while on lockdown.


Slater told attendees that Homecare Medical could see the impact of the livestreaming of the attack straight away.


“As soon as that video started to be disseminated we were starting to get calls in the 1737 service,” he said.


Additional resources of 150 contract clinicians were ultimately brought in and delivered 35,000 conversations linked to that event, which Slater described as a “psychosocial and psychological first aid response”.


Clinical themes were then coming through from the calls being received.


“By tuning in and listening to what New Zealanders were telling us we were very rapidly able to see the impact of media reporting on the population as well,” said Slater.


In partnership with Canterbury DHB and the Mental Health Foundation, Homecare Medical wrote guidelines for media organisations on how to sensitively report the event and reduce the impact it was having on people.


It was also able to monitor, based on call volume, the community response to things like the Prime Minister’s speech and different media headlines.


“We were able to bundle all of that intelligence up and send it back to the Ministry of Health and Canterbury DHB to enable them to better plan the local response,” he explained.


Homecare Medical also reconfigured a brief intervention counselling service called Puāwaitanga to accept referrals from the Muslim community and develop a better cultural connection.


Puāwaitanga uses a digital platform that enables people to complete questionnaires, choose their counsellor and select their appointment times.


Watch the presentation eMental Health and Disaster Response by Andrew Salter in the eHTV Webcast Library here >>


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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