The first Virtual Aged Care Unit in NSW thanks to Sutherland Hospital

In a first for NSW, Sutherland Hospital staff have created a virtual aged care unit to specifically care for geriatric patients in their homes.

Set up using the Hospital in the Home (HiTH) model, the service links in with the already existing Southcare Outreach Service to provide quality care for patients who would have previously required an inpatient bed.

Kylie Ditton, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Aged Care, Sutherland Hospital, saw a need for Sutherland Hospital to care for patients in their own homes and started the Southcare Outreach Service seven years ago after applying for funding.

“We have had great success over the past seven years keeping these patients out of hospital, with 92 to 93 per cent of patients able to stay in their home while in our care,” Ms Ditton said.

“The aged care population has distinct challenges that no other group has and we have tailored this new virtual aged care unit specifically for their needs.”

“Geriatric patients can often experience other health issues while in hospital, such as delirium, falls with injury or cellulitis, so by caring for elderly patients in their own environment, many of these complications are avoided,” she said.

Ms Ditton worked collaboratively with the hospital’s In-patient Aged Care Assessment Unit and Sutherland Hospital Geriatricians to expand the Southcare Outreach Service to care for patients with acute medical needs through this new virtual aged care ward. The Inpatient aged care team work together to identify patients who will be suitable to receive their care from home.

Patients, such as those receiving intravenous medications, can be cared for at home under this new model. A doctor and nurse from the team visit patients up to twice a day for ongoing medical treatment. Telehealth is another component used to care for the patients.

Thanks to the new model, patients require a shorter length of time as a virtual ‘inpatient’.

Patients and their families have provided wonderful feedback about the service.

“It has been outstanding for our situation,” said one family member. “It’s a fantastic program and so helpful. As a home service it’s great and much easier on the patient.”

Sutherland Hospital staff standing together in a group shot outside