UNE’s COVID-19 Virtual Care Response pilot monitors arrive

Published 09 April 2020

The University of New England (UNE) will take delivery of a first suite of intensive care standard monitoring equipment [Eds: 9 April 2020] to be rolled out to the wider New England North West community as a part of UNE’s COVID-19 Virtual Care Response, a pilot for the New England Virtual Health Network (NEViHN).

The equipment comprising 165 sets will be used to monitor the vital signs of patients who are in isolation or quarantined as a result of a COVID-19 infection, with the aggregated data monitored and analysed by a central team of doctors and nurses.

Professor Rod McClure, Dean of Medicine and Health at the University of New England (UNE) said the program will assist those with COVID-19 who can be safely monitored from home rather than through an extended hospital stay.

“The monitoring equipment that arrived today is a game changer for virtual health care - it enables uninterrupted wire-free and electrode-free vital signs monitoring using a finger cuff,” Professor McClure said.

“Historically, most continuous measurements required invasive and complex equipment, and have therefore been reserved for use mainly in critical care settings.

“Doctors at a Joint Virtual Care Centre (JVCC) located at UNE’s Tablelands Clinical School will be able to monitor heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and breathing, across each 24 hour period.

“The JVCC will be alerted in real time to any change in the patient’s condition, and can take appropriate action,” Professor McClure said.

The JVCC will also support clinicians from Armidale and Tamworth, and other externally-based specialists to deliver telehealth services.

On diagnostic positive test for COVID-19, patients in the New England North West will be allocated to one of three groups, including hospital admittance in severe cases, home with monitoring for milder cases with risk factors, or home with telehealth check-ups for less at risk patients.

UNE is helping to build the future of the regional network system by developing the New England Virtual Hospital Network in close partnership with Hunter New England Health.

The NEViHN will eventually support UNE medicine and health students to complete placements of up to 12-months in a regional, rural or remote township, where they will live and work as part of the community.

Limitations in access to quality health care (facilities, services and doctors) in rural communities is a leading cause of rural-urban health inequity and is responsible for at least 20% of premature morbidity and mortality.

Many areas in NENW have lower ratios of general practitioners relative to the population and a lower percentage of GP attendances per person than the Australian average. Enhancing the RRR health workforce is a priority of NSW and Australian Governments.

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