Since the Covid pandemic, technology and digital solutions has played a larger role in the delivery of some healthcare services. However, many of the older people that mPower supported had little or no experience of using technology, so the transition to accessing healthcare services digitally was not easy for them. They required support in gaining access to devices as well as how to use the technology and relevant platforms such as Attend Anywhere for virtual appointments.
The mPower team worked closely with the HSE and local community groups in Leitrim and Donegal to establish Digital Hubs aimed at overcoming the barriers older people face in using technology and making it easier for them to connect with health services where they were offering digital services. The first hub was set up at the Drumsna Community Resource Centre. It is managed by a local community group.
To create the hub the mPower team worked closely with the HSE Digital Transformation Team. The hub has dedicated digital support and acts as a point of contact for the use of digital health technologies, supporting individuals to understand the options for self-management by using these technologies, signposting to suitable digital apps including training/advice on their use, and lending out devices to people who cannot afford them. The hub provides the local community with a designated space to access video enabled healthcare solutions and forms part of a newly developed digital care pathway. The hub is also used to enable local people to connect socially with other people by taking part in quiz nights, bingo, theatre and just to connect virtually with friends and family who may be not be local.
Local mPower beneficiaries can now take part in clinics virtually rather than having to travel long distances for health appointments. In addition, the hubs also help to improve the digital literacy of users and to improve their social connection.
An example of the type of work being done is the local mPower Implementation Lead’s work with the HSE Pulmonary Rehab Team to provide patients with a device which will enable them to access an 8 week virtual pulmonary rehab programme.
The digital hubs are an excellent example of successful partnership working, as they bring HSE and community groups closer together in developing new ways of helping to keep older people active, involved and healthy.
Following the Drumsna model a further two digital hubs have launched at the Forge Family Resource Centre in Pettigo, Donegal and at Clonmany Mental Health Association in Inishowen, Donegal.