P>Veterans care facilities may not usually be thought of as being on the cutting edge of technology, but facilities across Canada are now sharing ideas and experiences using the Internet.
The Tillicum and Veterans Care Society, which operates
the Lodge at Broadmead in Victoria, and Veterans Affairs Canada have partnered to create an Online Community of Care for veterans care facility operators across Canada to share their best practices.
The community was launched in May, and so far has over 250 registered participants representing 86 organizations across Canada.
Shannon Turner, director of decision support services for the Tillicum and Veterans Care Society and one of the drivers behind the creation of the community, said the idea for the community was born at a conference in Calgary six years ago, where representatives from facilities across Canada were meeting to share experiences.
Since it had a strong technology environment, the Lodge at Broadmead volunteered to take the lead, and submitted a grant proposal to Health Canada that also included an online veterans community and greater use of technology for primary care.
They didn’t get the grant, but the proposal was broken up and Veterans Affairs expressed interest in the providers network, providing some funding to get it off the ground.
A design team of both IT and non-IT people from across the country worked for 18 months to design the community and prepare it for its launch. Turner said it was important to bring a range if voices to the design team, and they included urban and rural people as well as French and English speakers.
Online tech support is available, and the Lodge at Broadmead also provides a Web template through the community to help facilities establish a Web presence.
“The intention is for providers to maintain and manage the network in terms of content, but there are a whole bunch of services available to them on the platform,” said Turner.
“We facilitate the community but we don’t own it, it’s owned by the participants.”
Through the community, members can engage in chat, post events in the calendar, share articles, and post reports.
One example of sharing best practices would be a dementia care initiative currently being run by the Tillicum Veterans Care Society. The organization will be posting its evaluation strategy and the outcome of its efforts onto the community so other facilities engaged in a similar process can look at the nuts and bolts of what it did and how it did it, and can benefit from the lessons it learns.
“There are scarce resources in the health-care continuum, so why reinvent the wheel?” said Turner. “If somebody has developed a good working tool for pain management, then why not post it and save somebody else the time?”
Turner said the idea is to build an evidence base, but it’s not just restricted to that. The community is designed to be a place for dialogue, to get questions answered and to find contacts.
“We’ve had a really positive response and a lot of positive feedback on the functionality,” said Turner. “It’s an idea that’s time had certainly come.”
Teresa McLean, director of creative services in the communications branch of Veterans Affairs Canada, said Veterans Affairs got involved because it was a way to bring all the facilities across Canada with priority access beds together. It’s also an easier way for Veterans Affairs to reach those facilities and share information with them.
“More importantly it offers those facilities the opportunity to share best practices and starts to ensure the quality of care for veterans is consistent across the country,” said McLean.
The online community is more cost effective and efficient than the face-to-face conferences and mass mail-outs that were used to share information in the past, and McLean said the forum also brings more equality to the facilities.
“The larger facilities may have the time and resources to develop their own best practices but maybe the smaller facilities would not have the opportunity to do that,” said McLean. “It creates an equality of services and of sharing information because the issues of senior care are the same whether you have one bed or 50.”
Thus far, McLean said the feedback Veterans Affairs has received on the project has been extremely positive. However, she said originally the community was designed to be self-sustaining with no requirement for ongoing funding. McLean said the department would be looking at the usage stats for the community and at the feedback it has received before a decision will be made how to continue with the community.