In the HSE Community Healthcare Organisation Areas 1 and 8 (CHO1 and CHO8) mPower was very much “ahead of the game” having launched the use of Attend Anywhere to deliver the Virtual Pulmonary Rehab clinics in Drogheda.
Attend Anywhere is a digital platform to enable safe and secure video calls. It allows clinicians to consult with patients remotely and saves people from having to travel to clinics, a significant saving in time and costs, particularly for people in rural areas.
mPower began its first trials of Attend Anywhere pre-pandemic, in November 2019. In Drogheda the first Pulmonary Rehab clinic took place and at Sligo University the first virtual pain clinic was successfully held.
When the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020 many health services could not continue to operate in the usual face- to- face setting, so for many patients and services a virtual approach seemed to be the only option for continuity of care. That was when attention was turned to the work mPower had been doing with the pilots of Attend Anywhere across the aforementioned clinics.
The mPower team in CH01 and CH08 were the main source of knowledge about Attend Anywhere within the HSE and the staff in both teams were redeployed to the HSE National Virtual Team to roll out video enabled care via Attend Anywhere across the whole of Ireland.
The mPower team led the training nationally on how to use Attend Anywhere. They supported the provision of webinars and created website content on how to use the platform. In total the team trained 3,600 clinicians and health care professionals in twice daily virtual training sessions running from May to August 2020. Within the space of only a few months over 30,000 Attend Anywhere consultations had been held within the HSE AND at the time of writing (April 2022) there has been over 220,000 virtual appointments held across Ireland using Attend Anywhere.
The fast and efficient roll out of Attend Anywhere was supported by the National Technology Enabled Care (TEC) team in Scotland, who had been utilising the technology (known as NHS Near Me in Scotland) for some time and shared their expertise, knowledge and training materials.
They also supported national protocols and policy development on the use of Attend Anywhere. This is now the main Video Enabled Care platform within the HSE, making it easier to access health services and as time has gone by Covid-19 restrictions have had less impact and less disruption to the provision of health services in Ireland.
The Scottish team supported the Irish Government and HSE to set up their own platform and programme, working in collaboration to share solutions at a time when a rapid response was needed in both Scotland and Ireland. Because the network was already there and the collaboration existed, the Scottish Technology Enabled Care team willingly provided the HSE with access to all their training materials and key learnings. Consequently, the HSE with the support of mPower were able to customise their training materials and implementation plan to deliver training nationally quickly and efficiently.
Julie Bellew, Deputy IT Delivery Director for the HSE said “This rapid growth from only 2 active waiting rooms within Attend Anywhere in April 2020 to over 30,000 consultations in August shows the dedication and professionalism at play here. A key enabler for us was the openness and support from the Scottish Technology Enabled Care team who supported us throughout this process whenever we needed it. I am so very proud of the work the mPower and national virtual team have done. Their flexibility and adaptability have had a tremendous impact across the country during this time of pandemic.’’
Hazel Archer, Digital Access Programme Lead, Scottish Access Collaborative, Scottish Government said “TEC and NHS Near Me were actively participating in the mPower project and sharing our experiences from 3 years of Attend Anywhere rolling out in Scotland. We’ve enjoyed collaborating over many years with Ireland. It’s important we are open with our learning as new external insight from trusted partners always improves our service. In March as the scale of Covid-19 began to emerge it was easy to support HSE’s efforts through our existing mPower relationship. Establishing a new service from scratch can take years, there was no hesitation in making introductions for HSE and providing our training materials and access to support teams. We’re very proud to have played our small part in their success.”
The platform has been positively received right across the HSE by health professionals and service users alike.
In recognition of this significant new way to deliver health services in Ireland, the mPower team were awarded the Innovation Organisation of the Year and best Cross-Border Partnership at the Causeway Ireland Business Exchange.
The technology is now successfully embedded right across the health service and ranges from the Community Physiotherapy Services to Child and Adult Mental Health Services, and from Audiology services using the platform for virtual hearing aid fittings to Dietetics clinics.
Moya Ferguson, a Senior Physiotherapist from St. Joseph’s Hospital, Stranorlar said “Attend Anywhere has enabled us to actively engage with our clients face to face via video call. We have found it to be a great adjunct to physiotherapy. We have been able to check clients’ range of movement, their gait, and provide home exercise.”
One service user from Donegal said “The video call was very good. It gave me reassurance that I was doing the exercises correctly and helped me feel more confident. I wouldn’t have been able to see the physio otherwise, because the department is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.”
The Audiology team in Sligo and Donegal found that 95% of service users surveyed would use it again for appointments. A whole range of services are now using Attend Anywhere to review and treat patients/service users virtually,
Wendy Rutherford, mPower Implementation Lead for the Finn Valley CHO 1 said “It was a very exciting, challenging and rewarding experience supporting the HSE national roll out of Attend Anywhere. The gains for service providers and service users have been considerable as we are enabling effective communication and care provision through the medium of eHealth whilst under pandemic restrictions.”