St John Launches Telemonitoring Service

August 1, 2022

This post was written by Rebecca McBeth and first appeared in HiNZ.

St John is trialling a telemonitoring service to improve access to healthcare for Māori and Pasifika with high blood pressure.

Manaaki Mamao has been developed in partnership with technology company Spritely and builds on a successful pilot that attracted Ministry of Health funding and will eventually involve more than 100 participants.

Participants are given a tablet computer that automatically pairs to a blood pressure monitor that they use at home and allows people to track health vitals.

St John national Māori advisor - customers and supporters, Malcolm Kendall, says the easy-to-use kit makes taking readings simple.

“We can’t change what we can’t measure. Being able to see their readings gives whaiora (patients) something to aim for and to change,” he says.

Participants can take video calls on the tablet with a St John telemonitoring clinical advisor, as well as friends and whānau. They also get daily ‘lifestyle calls’ with non-clinicians and can play games, as a way of increasing their engagement.

“The really smart feature of the kit is how it allows whānau to be involved via a separate app. By sharing support between whānau and the telemonitoring clinical advisor, it is an approach that fits well with Māori whānau, with obvious benefits for the management of their hypertension (blood pressure),” Kendall says.

The service is closely linked to primary care providers who refer their patients to the service and are notified about any conditions that need follow-up.

The St John telemonitoring clinical team work closely with GPs to help set up care plans and monitor health vitals and the St John Telecare team help with the home installation plus ongoing wellbeing and technical support.

Early results from the first 40 participants, who have been with the service for more than eight weeks, show their blood pressure readings either stabilise or trend downward.

Pete Loveridge, St John deputy chief executive - customers and supporters, says initial feedback on the service has been very encouraging.

“We know GPs are referring their patients; we know patients are using the service and get value from it; and we know that it is having a positive health impact,” Loveridge says.

“Participants are finding the technology simple to use, are excited that they have more control over their wellbeing and like that the service links back in with their GP.”

He says there have been multiple instances where the telemonitoring clinical advisors have recognised a patient’s concerning symptoms early, and then advocated on their behalf for a priority appointment with a health provider.

Participant feedback, as well as that from healthcare providers and within the St John team, has helped inform some further improvements to the service.

Apart from aiming to increase participant numbers over the coming months, St John also has ambitions of turning the one-off trial into an ongoing programme that addresses other conditions such as diabetes, COPD, and mental health and wellbeing.