Every morning, Rhonda Brennan records her health vitals on a tablet at her retirement village unit.
The software on the tablet is the first of its kind in the country and is being used to prevent social isolation during a lockdown.
It records health vitals, which are then sent to a nurse, who accesses the results remotely and can act upon them if needed.
The software also gives rest home residents access to daily news, government alerts, activity booking and other features, so they can stay connected while isolated from the outside world.
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Brennan, who lives at Alpine View Lifestyle Village on Prestons Rd, Christchurch, said the software helped to her to “feel a part of a family” during the alert level 4 lockdown earlier this year.
She was able to keep in contact with other residents and the outside world, while also keeping tabs on her health while she wasn’t allowed to leave the village.
“The first lockdown was over a pretty long period. It gave me peace of mind knowing I had help and could trust it at the touch of a button,” Brennan said.
“The lockdown would’ve been much harder without it. You can’t put a price on your independence.”
Alpine View and Burlington Village, both owned by Qestral, were the first to test the product, as Qestral already had their own tablets.
Christopher Dawson, chief executive of Spritely, a New Zealand aged care technology company, came up with the idea for the tablet in 2015 after his father suffered a fall and other health problems.
“I was concerned with what would happen with no-one around him,” Dawson said.
Retirement village residents and staff were some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable, particularly in a pandemic, he said.
“Being vigilant usually means adding more staff to help out. In a pandemic, this isn’t possible.
“All they have to do now is turn to the tablet, and they can access whatever they need, including a nurse’s advice.”
The technology has seen a high level of usage due to its user-friendliness, he said. Between 60 and 70 per cent of the 350 residents currently using it do so every day.
Qestral managing director and NZ Aged Care Association president Simon O’Dowd said the technology had the potential to significantly improve safety for staff and residents across the industry.
“We’re very pleased to be involved in this project,” he said.
The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) gave Spritely a $57,600 grant in July in partnership with Callaghan Innovation.
MBIE is testing the technology for its effectiveness in screening vulnerable New Zealanders during a pandemic.
The trial period, set to begin soon, will last four to eight weeks, with the final report by the end of 2020.