Innovative wellness checks introduced at War Memorial Hospital help prevent serious health issues

As soon as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic were introduced in March, staff at War Memorial Hospital (WMH) took action to ensure older clients living in the community continued to take care of their health and wellbeing.
A multidisciplinary working group formed to develop a Wellness Check, encompassing a number of tools to respond to the emerging need. These include a client letter, wellness check triage and decision making tool, as well as links to health services for onward follow up or referrals, such as admission to WMH programs. 
Genevieve Maiden, Allied Health and Integrated Care Manager, WMH, said although health services have remained open for at-risk clients, anecdotally clinicians became aware of clients deteriorating in the community due to social isolation and decreased uptake of regular health services, such as GP and specialist visits.
“The Wellness Check tools are backed by research which identified key issues that lead to deterioration and hospitalisation,” Ms Maiden said.  
“By initiating a formal structure to ensure the wellbeing of clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, War Memorial Hospital clinicians and managers were able to proactively contact clients where face-to-face consultations were not possible or declined – yet the need remained imminent.

“There are already a number of clients who’ve experienced positive outcomes as a result of the program. For example, one client was identified as having a significant cardiac issue. It was subsequently addressed – through the implantation of a pacemaker – preventing an emergency hospitalisation or poor outcome for the client,” Ms Maiden said.
Clients targeted by the program include current patients, those discharged within the last six months and those on wait lists for WMH services.
Ged Hyde, Executive Manager, WMH, said the Wellness Check program is part of a suite of strategies which focus on keeping people well in the community before a health crisis occurs.
“I am very proud of the team to have come up with the idea, how they thoroughly researched it and had it up and running so quickly and effectively.  
“The program will continue to be implemented until COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted. However, it’s expected the tool may benefit staff and clients in the longer term, enabling check-in with clients on discharge from our services,” Mr Hyde said.

Pictured: Some of the broad range of clinicians involved in the Wellness Check program – Belinda Elwin, (Dietitian), Annabel Kingsford (iREAP Care Co-ordinator), Wendy Longley (Neuropsychologist), Genevieve Maiden (Allied Health & Integrated Care Manager), Jacqui Robertson, (Physiotherapist) & Lynda Elias (Geriatric Flying Squad NUM).

Staff involved in the Wellness Check program standing outside War Memorial Hospital