LIFE CHANGING: Dr Johanne Neill with the first ever Me Care patient Donna-Lee Inglis at the program launch. It's been a year since MeCare was introduced.
LIFE CHANGING: Dr Johanne Neill with the first ever Me Care patient Donna-Lee Inglis at the program launch. It's been a year since MeCare was introduced. David Nielsen

World-first program a health 'godsend'

FOR FIVE years Redbank Plains woman Donna Inglis spent most of her time at the Ipswich Hospital.

But one year ago everything changed for the chronically ill woman.

A revolutionary pilot program, called MeCare, launched at the hospital and Donna was the first patient to sign up.

Now, instead of dragging herself up to the hospital, Donna takes her own vitals such as blood pressure and weight, and shares that information daily with a specialist team via video conference.

Donna suffers chronic health issues including heart failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Before she joined MeCare in July 2016, Donna had two to three appointments with her GP each week and an appointment with a respiratory specialist once a fortnight.

In the past year Donna has spent just two weeks in hospital and her stay was unrelated to the chronic health issues managed under the MeCare program.

Her GP visits have been scaled back to about once every fortnight and she sees her specialist once every four months.

"Considering I was (previously) in hospital for more than six months of the year, every year... it (MeCare) has been a godsend,” Donna said.

"It's been so beneficial to my physical well-being but also my mental well-being.''

The MeCare program was launched publicly in October last year, about four months into the trial.

The initial pilot group of 20 has increased to about 70 patients.

The innovative program, in partnership with Philips, uses in-home technology that allows chronically ill patients to track their daily health targets.

Donna is among the 5% of patients who suffer chronic illnesses seen by West Moreton Hospital Health Service.

Caring for those patients soaks up 50% of the health service's resources, worth roughly $235 million.

MeCare manager Paul Kemp said the program was designed to empower participants to take control of their health by educating patients about their needs and how to maintain good health.

"If we can improve health literacy and quality of life through health coaching they become empowered and take control of their lifestyle,'' Mr Kemp said.

"By adopting healthier lifestyle choices, participants are not only staying out of hospital, but many have reported improved mental health.

"One patient has started to drive for the first time in 12 months; others have lost weight - up to 25kg - and therefore have come off injectable medications.

"We've seen the majority of patients become more social which is a really important part of the program.”

MeCare was named a category winner in May at the Queensland Health eAwards, which celebrated advances in healthcare through digital innovation.

Philips Australia and New Zealand Director of Population Health Management Shehaan Fernando said it was exciting to be part of a collaboration that led to increased patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes.

"The partnership between West Moreton Hospital and Health Service and Philips is a great indication of the potential for new models of care that are enabled by connected health technology and drive personalised behavioural change approaches to improve the health and well-being of those chronically ill patients that are part of MeCare,” Mr Fernando said.

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