UQ’s Professor Len Gray consults with a patient using telehealth.
UQ’s Professor Len Gray consults with a patient using telehealth.
30 October 2012

The University of Queensland researchers are investigating ways to improve access to health services for people in residential aged care facilities with the use of telehealth.

Telehealth is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies.

Thanks to a $972,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant, the UQ Centre for Online Health (COH) and Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine (CRGM) will implement a randomised control trial of telehealth in residential aged care facilities.

Professor Len Gray, Director of COH and CRGM said the Centre had developed a service model using a systematic approach to assessment and care planning.

“The service model uses a web-based software system and consultation at the resident’s bedside with mobile wireless videoconferencing by a geriatrician operating from a telehealth studio,” Professor Gray said.

“It is clear that residents of residential aged care facilities are experiencing difficulties in accessing a wide range of health services.

“They are usually physically disabled and require an escort to travel.

“There is often a choice of an uncomfortable and expensive journey or no service at all, even in metropolitan settings.

“In some facilities there is also evidence that care might be improved by the regular input of specialist geriatricians and a more systematic approach to assessment and care planning.”

This telehealth model in residential aged care facilities will also address access issues in rural communities, immobility, cognitive impairment and incontinence problems, and workforce shortages amongst specialist health care providers.

In addition to geriatrician services, there will be a wide range of other specialists available to support care for residents.

The study will examine whether this telehealth service improves access to services, reduces the need for travel to hospitals and clinics and improves the overall quality of care.

Professor Gray will be assisted by chief investigators: Dr Melinda Martin-Khan; Professor Elizabeth Beattie; Dr Sisira Edirippulige; Associate Professor Trevor Russell; Associate Professor Anthony Smith; Professor Deborah Theodoros; Associate Professor Ian Scott and Dr Ruth Hubbard.

In Australia, over 180,000 older people currently live in residential aged care facilities and these figures are expected to continue to rise.

At least a third of citizens can expect to live in some form of residential care for some period of time at the end of their lives.

“If this study demonstrates either improvements in care or reductions in cost it will have important implications for all residential aged care facilities in Australia and internationally,” Professor Gray said.



Centre for Online Health The Centre for Online Health (COH) is one of very few research and teaching centres in the world which focus on the evaluation of telehealth for the delivery of health services.

The Centre for Online Health (COH) is part of the School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences. The centre undertakes research and teaching in the area of clinical support using telehealth/telemedicine (the delivery of health services at a distance using a range of communication techniques).

The COH is situated on the Herston campus within the Royal Children's Hospital with a primary focus on providing and evaluating services for children and families in Queensland. Lessons learnt during the last decade are now being applied across the age spectrum to support our adult and aged care population. The COH is responsible for a broad range of collaborative projects which explore and evaluate innovative methods of providing clinical services in metropolitan and regional health centres.

For more information about the centre, please click here.

Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine

The Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine is among the most successful geriatric medicine research organisations in Australia. It has a strong multi-disciplinary focus, with researchers of diverse background contributing to its work - medicine, nursing, allied health, psychology, biomedical engineering, health economics and software development.

Established in 2002, it has developed a reputation for innovation in the application of novel systems of care, information technology and telemedicine to advance access to, and quality of, specialist aged care services.

The Centre has strong international collaborations throughout Europe and North America, contributing to an international effort to create "multi-domain" third generation assessment systems under the auspices of the interRAI Research Collaborative. It specialises in multi-national and multi-site studies, with over 30 organisations participating in its research programs over the past 5 years.

For more information, please click here.

For media enquiries:Professor Len Gray (Director), Centre for Online Health/Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine 07 3176 5530 and len.gray@uq.edu.au,
Dr Anthony Smith (Associate Professor, Deputy Director)Centre for Online Health, +61 7 3346 4702 or asmith@uq.edu.au Joanne Grey (Centre for Online Health Media and Communications, The University of Queensland) j.grey2@uq.edu.au, 07 3346 5199.