World TB Day: technology & nursing making a difference

24 March 2017

A nursing smartphone innovation making tuberculosis treatment easier for both nurses and clients is being celebrated to mark World TB Day today.

Public health nurse Carolyn Pye is part of an Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) project team that has won two awards for using smartphones and other digital devices to help treat and manage the disease.

Pye said it was estimated by that by 2018 90 per cent of New Zealanders would own a smartphone.  "So it makes sense for health professionals to engage with patients on a digital platform to help them," she said.

The World Health Organisation recommends public health nurses observe people with TB swallowing each dose of their medication. Previously these DOTs  "directly observed therapies’ had to be done in person – a very time-consuming process for nurses as they had to drive daily to patients' homes or workplaces to watch them taking the daily medication for up to 12 months. 

Now these DOTs can be done electronically using an app that allows patients and nurses to have virtual consultations via a secure and confidential live video feeds on laptops, smartphones or tablets.

The teleDOT project also allows patients to record themselves taking medication and upload the video to a secure portal for health staff to access.  It has freed up nursing time to concentrate on other TB responsibilities and is understood to have lead to a 75 per cent public health cost saving for each TB patient involved.

Nursing Review last year talked to Auckland District Health Board nurse and telehealth programme manager Lucy Westbooke about developing and evaluating the evolving teleDOTS project which used a New Zealand-hosted video conference provider.

Pye said teleDOTs had changed the lives of TB patients by giving them back their privacy and freedom to choose when and where they take their medication.

"Our patients love TeleDOTs. It is much less intrusive than walking into their home, work or university to watch them take their medication," she said.

"TeleDOT overcomes socio-economic barriers, because those who can’t afford their own technology are loaned the necessary equipment by ARPHS so no one misses out. Managing diseases like TB using digital devices is the future of health care, and we are proud to be part of that revolution."

The project team won a grant from the Ministry of Health in the Clinician’s Challenge Awards and then became the category winner for Excellence in Community Health and Wellbeing in the Auckland District Health Board, Health Excellence Awards. 


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