Significant increase in neurological services delivered online

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   23rd Jul 2021

Neurological care providers delivering 60 per cent of services online, compared to 8 per cent pre-Covid.

A national strategy is required to ensure neurological care service providers are adequately resourced to deliver online services, according to a new report launched  yesterday (22.07.2021) by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI).of which the Irish Heart Foundation is a member.

‘Looking Beyond Covid-19: Embracing Digital Solutions to Neurological Care’ is based on surveys and interviews of service-users and providers about their experiences of delivering online care during the pandemic. It was launched by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland to mark World Brain Day 2021 .

The Report found that neurological care providers are delivering on average 60 per cent of their services online, compared to 8 per cent pre-Covid. However, 47 per cent of patients are not being reached online.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the beginning of a rapid and unprecedented move to deliver online services,"

Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director, The Neurological Alliance of Ireland

Commenting, Magdalen Rogers NAI Executive Director, said, “The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the beginning of a rapid and unprecedented move to deliver online services and supports across neurological care services. Within a very short timeframe, people with neurological conditions were accessing hospital appointments, physiotherapy sessions, support groups and information through their laptop or smartphone.

“Neurological care providers adapted exceptionally well throughout the pandemic to deliver these services online. However, if online services are to remain, we need a national, coordinated approach to the provision of online healthcare, recognising the resources required in terms of equipment, expertise, and dedicated staffing to provide these services. Up to 50 per cent of patients were not availing of online services. We need to understand and address the barriers that prevent people accessing online care if they want to.

“The Report shows that technological barriers are a real issue for both patients and staff when it comes to delivering online care. Service providers reported a lack of appropriate IT equipment and poor broadband as key factors affecting their ability to deliver online care. This needs to be addressed as part of a new national strategy for the delivery of online neurological care services.”

"Many of our members have embraced the online space but we know that some encountered real barriers,"

Helen Gaynor, Head of Community Support Services, The Irish Heart Foundation

The Irish Heart Foundation is one of a number of NAI members featured in the report which incudes details on the innovative digital methods embraced by NAI members throughout the pandemic to ensure service user needs were being met.

The Irish Heart Foundation moved quickly to provide a number of online services to people living with heart disease and stroke including its innovative Stroke Check in Service in response to a request from the HSE National Stroke Programme to provide support for stroke patients who were discharged home early from hospital due to the pandemic.  Since April 2020 almost 500 stroke patients and their carers have been supported by the service.

Commenting Helen Gaynor, Head of Community Support Services at the Irish Heart Foundation said, the  Irish Heart Foundation stroke support service uses a number of digital platforms from Zoom to WhatsApp messaging to connect with members.

“ We have expanded our reach through online service delivery and telephone supports, and some groups such as our Young Stroke Survivor Network which was limited to Dublin pre-COVID, have doubled in size, with younger members from all over the county now connecting with each other.

Our Stroke Co-ordinators  worked hard to support members to get online and the assistance of our volunteers as well as the support from Age Action and Generation Tech, and a Comic Relief grant for devices really helped. Many of our members have embraced the online space but we know that some encountered real barriers. We welcome the NAI’s report calling for a national strategy to ensure adequate resources to overcome these barriers so we can continue provision of online support as well as our vital face-to-face services, post -COVID.”

The NAI has stated that patients must be central to the debate on online healthcare. The Report found that 74 per cent of service users would like a combination of face to face and online services going forward.

The ‘Looking Beyond Covid-19: Embracing Digital Solutions to Neurological Care’ report can be viewed here.


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