The impact of COVID-19 response: adapting and innovating for patient care

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges across campus. Over the past two years, the RCH has had to adapt and change the way it cares for patients and their families to ensure that world leading patient care doesn’t stop.

“COVID-19 has altered all of our lives, including the life of the RCH. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had to reimagine the services that we provide to children and young people across Victoria and beyond to ensure the safety of our patients, their families and our staff,” said Jane Miller, Chief Operating Officer at the RCH.

It is thanks to your support that the RCH has been in the best possible position to take on this challenge. Through philanthropic funding, specialists at the RCH have developed a better understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 on patients and are working hard to ensure that teams across the hospital are able to deliver the best possible care to patients both in hospital, in their communities and closer to home.

It has long been a vision at the RCH that the future of paediatric healthcare is beyond the four walls of the hospital and thanks to the unique situation induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and boosted through your support, the RCH has been able to truly test that vision.

Through your generous support, the hospital has been able to deliver the vision of great care, everywhere. From giving patients with high risk respiratory conditions access to care in the comfort of their own home via telehealth, to training hospital teams and general practitioners (GPs) across the state, and piloting an innovative virtual care approach, the RCH has remained committed to providing world leading care for patients.

Great respiratory care everywhere in the post COVID-19 era
High risk and complex respiratory patients with conditions like cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia will now be able to access at home care, based on practises initiated and refined during the COVID-19 pandemic. By equipping patients with their own spirometers, and connecting them with clinicians via telehealth appointments, respiratory patients can have some of their outpatient reviews done in home. A spirometer is a portable device that features a mouthpiece for patients to breathe into. It evaluates how well their lungs are working in real time. Clinicians at the RCH can use this to complete tests remotely and obtain detailed lung function data in a telehealth setting, thereby reducing the risk of infection a patient may experience by attending a busy outpatient clinic. Overall, the program will lead to better patient outcomes.

Allied Health and Nursing Education Outreach Program

First established in 2016, the Allied Health and Nursing Education Outreach Program is an innovative education and training model that upskills hospital teams and GPs across the state. With courses covering a range of specialised paediatric care models, the program is led by RCH clinicians and supports regional and rural patients by providing access to care closer to home. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program offered a hybrid model of face to face and online teaching, but as the pandemic progressed, the program pivoted online and now utilises a flexible approach of education including varying session lengths from 45 minutes up to a full day to maximise personal development leave for staff, as well as weekend, evening, and repeat sessions. Between March and December 2020, over 2,400 allied health staff and nursing clinicians from 250 different hospitals and clinics accessed the program, which will allow children and their families to have access to the best paediatric care as close to home as possible.

RCH Virtual Care Strategy

Developed in response to global recognition that virtual care can improve both access to patient care and patient outcomes, the RCH Virtual Care Strategy is a multi-year program that will allow the hospital to deliver remote and integrated paediatric care beyond the four walls of the RCH, and ensure patients can access RCH quality care no matter where they are based. With telehealth already making a significant impact on improving access to care, the first stage of this program is to explore new technology, devices and innovative models of care that are conducive to the virtual care approach. This includes paediatric approved patient devices that can be used in the home, platforms to allow better shared care with other health services across the state, integrations to allow data to be fed back into the hospital’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) from outside the hospital, as well as technology to improve digital care coordination and health education. This will prepare the hospital for the next two stages of the project, which each pilot remote patient monitoring.

As the RCH continues to collaborate, innovate, and advocate for great care everywhere, it is the continued support of philanthropy that will allow them to achieve that vision.

“Without the support of philanthropy, we would not be able to kickstart visionary, and truly ground-breaking developments across the hospital,” said Professor Sarath Ranganathan, Director of Respiratory Medicine at the RCH.