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Telegeriatrics: delivery of multidisciplinary care to residents of nursing homes. 1 Dr. Elsie Hui 2 Professor Magnus Hjelm 2 Professor Jean Woo 1 Community Geriatric Assessment Team, Shatin Hospital and 2 The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Background. Nursing Homes in Hong Kong.

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telegeriatrics delivery of multidisciplinary care to residents of nursing homes

Telegeriatrics: delivery of multidisciplinary care to residents of nursing homes

1Dr. Elsie Hui

2Professor Magnus Hjelm

2Professor Jean Woo

1Community Geriatric Assessment Team, Shatin Hospital and 2The Chinese University of Hong Kong

nursing homes in hong kong
Nursing Homes in Hong Kong
  • 50,000 of Hong Kong’s 0.6 million elderly reside in nursing homes.
  • Over half live in private, profit-making homes of variable standard of care.
  • Nursing homes are not supported by general practitioners.
  • Emergency Department attendance and hospital admissions are high.
  • Community Geriatric Assessment Team (CGAT) serves nursing homes.
  • Geriatrician, nurse, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.
  • Provides multidisciplinary outreach services.
  • In Shatin, CGAT supports 20 institutions, 2000+ clients.
  • Limitations - infrequent visits, unable to respond rapidly to urgent problems.
telemedicine in geriatrics
Telemedicine in Geriatrics
  • Relatively few specialists looking after growing numbers of older patients.
  • Elderly have difficulty accessing health care because of social isolation, poor mobility, low awareness, etc.
  • Require multidisciplinary input and holistic approach, with sequential follow-up, preferably in their own homes.

To explore whether Telemedicine is as effective as, or superior to, conventional outreach activities in providing a multidisciplinary service to elderly patients in nursing homes.

telemedicine hardware
Telemedicine Hardware
  • Videophone system - Polycom® Viewstation 512K, 30 frames per second.
  • 3 ISDN lines per station.
  • Video camera, microphone, colour TV
  • Optional - headphones, video recorder, computer, stethoscope
  • 195-bed nursing home in Shatin
  • Current outreach services from CGAT:

 routine and urgent medical assessment

multidisciplinary input - nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy

  • Specialist clinics participating in study:




  • Telemedicine was used to replace all conventional outreach activities (CGAT) or outpatients visits (derm, psy, podiatry).
  • A site visit would be made if telemedicine was considered inadequate for patient management or decision-making.
  • The service was available during office hours, five days a week.
activities assessed

history taking

review of case notes/ drug charts

physical exam

nursing orders

Assessment of:



mental state

skin and wounds

swallowing test

catheter care

inhaler technique

home oxygen

Activities assessed
outcome measures
Outcome measures

1. Can telemedicine replace previous outreach or outpatient activities?

2. Can telemedicine increase productivity?

3. Is telemedicine cheaper than conventional services?

4. Does telemedicine reduce utilization of hospital-based health services?

5. How acceptable is telemedicine to users?

Telemedicine was adequate in the majority of cases and disciplines.
  • Areas of limitation:

Geriatrician - new cases, chest auscultation essential

Dermatologist - biopsy necessary

Nurse - complex procedures

Physio - chest PT

OT - measurement for equipment

Podiatrist - wound debridement

telemedicine increases productivity
Telemedicine Increases Productivity


  • Time savings - 2½ hours per telemedicine session compared with 4 hours per outreach visit.
  • Increased productivity - number of patients increased by 44.4% (from 45 to 65).

Occupational Therapist

  • Waiting time for new referrals shortened from 7 to 2 days.
  • 5 telemedicine sessions were held per month versus only 3 visits per month before study.
savings over one year geriatrician
Savings over One Year (Geriatrician)

By replacing outreach geriatric clinics with telemedicine:

[($153 x 45) - ($40.3 x 65)] x 4

= $17062

By diverting 20 cases from outpatients to telemedicine:

$455 x 20 x 4 = $36400

telemedicine reduces utilisation of hospital based services 2
Telemedicine reduces utilisation of hospital-based services (2)

Compared with same period pre-study:

  • Emergency Room attendances decreased by 10% - Telemedicine was only available during office hours whereas 55% of emergency visits were out of hours.
  • Acute hospital admissions decreased by 11%
total savings geriatrician
Total Savings (Geriatrician)
  • Provision of geriatrician’s services (medical follow-up, triaging of urgent cases) via telemedicine resulted in savings for the health authority amounting to $273,594 over one year.
user satisfaction 1
User Satisfaction1

Patients (total 1001 episodes)

  • 35% unable to answer (demented, communication difficulties).
  • Depending on the discipline, 82% to 95% were satisfied with this mode of care delivery.
user satisfaction 2
User Satisfaction2

Nursing Home Staff

  • equipment easy to use
  • increased accessibility to CGAT
  • workload - 50% increased versus 50% decreased!
  • Telemedicine is an acceptable alternative to conventional geriatric services for nursing home residents.
  • It results in significant cost and time savings, increases productivity and decreases utilization of emergency and inpatient services by providing timely intervention.
  • Quality can be improved by availability of a stethoscope device
  • Cost effectiveness will be enhanced by extending the hours of service and supporting more homes.
  • Costs will further reduce with rapid advances in information technology.