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The ABC of telehealth: Assistive, beneficial, connected

Access to fast broadband will enable people with special needs to manage their health from the comfort of their home.

A couple of months ago, I took part in a week-long regional Queensland roadshow organised by Life Without Barriers.

It's a not-for-profit organisation that works in more than 300 communities around Australia to support people in the areas of disability, out-of-home and aged care, mental health, homelessness, youth involved in the justice system, and refugees.  

During that week, I got the opportunity to meet many people with disabilities, as well as their families and carers, and it got me thinking about the benefits of the nbn™network.

While everyone gets to reap the rewards of ubiquitous connectivity - for instance, multiple people can be online at once using multiple devices, all enjoying fast speeds - there are some really great benefits that people who perform specific tasks get to enjoy as well.

Giving the gift of independence

Assistive technology is a great example.  

I don't know if you’ve heard the term but it refers to any device, system or design that allows an individual to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increase the ease and safety with which a task can be performed. 

Basically, it helps give people their independence – and what a wonderful thing that is!

Assistive technology can be simple or complex, but it can make a huge difference to what people with disability can achieve.

Simple might mean everyday devices like glasses, an activity tracker, or hearing aids.

More complex might mean technologies to help manage medication or fingerprint-activated keyless home security systems.

Take a look at cutting-edge technologies that could radically improve the daily lives of people living with disabilities.

Watch: Find out how a patient in regional Victoria no longer has to travel for days to see her specialist, thanks to telehealth services via the nbn™ network.

Remote control: Health and happiness just a click away

A lot of these assistive technologies rely on internet access to operate or update, which will be assisted access to the nbn™ network.

Examples of assistive technologies include apps to make phone calls, communication software, remote control software to switch lights on and off and software for everyday living, like online grocery shopping apps.

Then there are things like eye-operated communication and control systems that help empower people with disability to communicate and interact with the world.

Just by looking at control keys or cells displayed on a screen, a user may be able to generate speech either by typing a message or selecting pre-programmed phrases.

In the Telehealth space, doctors and carers may remotely monitor and measure a person’s vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure and weight. 

Some special services will get delivered digitally, which particularly benefits people impacted by distance, or mobility issues, and lack of local specialist clinicians to deliver services. 

The nbn™ network is connecting homes to fast broadband, and with that also comes access to social media sites, online gaming, Skype and video conferencing facilities without needing to leave your home for every catch up with new and old friends.

People will be able to make new friends and virtually hang out with them through real time, online gaming, which may have benefits in relation to attention span, hand-eye coordination and decision making.

Check out our special series to find out how access to fast broadband is transforming the way Australians manage their health from the comfort of their home.

Helping youth get a headstart

nbn has played a key role in helping develop a jobs program designed to help young people living with mental illness join the workforce.

More than a year in the making, the new training and work experience program is designed to assist those finding it difficult to secure meaningful employment.

nbn has worked closely with headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation) and national not-for-profit organisation Ostara Australia to develop the program, which has gone LIVE in the Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh.

Acting Deployment Manager HFC Wayne Witham, who is leading the program for nbn in Victoria, says the company will provide resources and trained staff prepared to volunteer their time to take young people through a training course in office administration, presentation skills and job preparation.

"nbn is committed to an ongoing relationship running these programs on a regular basis across the country," Wayne says.

The program has been designed for young people 18-25 years of age at risk of mental health issues or living with a mental illness and looking to transition to work.

"On successful completion of training, they then offered between one and two weeks of work experience at an nbn site," says Wayne.

They will each also have a mentor on hand to guide them during their placement, along with being given achievable administration tasks to perform within the nbn office environment.

“Where there are vacancies at nbn, job opportunities will be available for those young people that demonstrate that they have the capability and motivation for an entry level role within the organisation,” says Wayne.

Wayne says he jumped at the chance to become involved, after hearing about the efforts of nbn colleague Peter Delavere, who helped established a trial of the program with headspace in NSW.

"It was just a no brainer for me (to get involved)," says Wayne, whose daughter has Lennox Gastaut syndrome (a form of uncontrolled epilepsy) and is unable to work.

"As a parent, you see these things (opportunities) and you’ve got to make it happen for these kids. If you don’t, nothing will."

Headspace CEO Chris Tanti, says the goal is to support young people into employment by building skills, confidence and networks.

"We know that work and study plays an important protective factor for young people’s mental wellbeing and can also contribute to the recovery process with the right supports in place," he says.

The program was first trialled in the organisations’ Ashfield site last year and will kickoff in Newcastle in April followed by further expansion across the country.

"It’s great to have a large national organisation like nbn support young people in this way and we’d certainly encourage other organisations to look at similar approaches in the future," says Chris.

Ostara Australia CEO Tom Baxter says the organisation is thrilled to be able to bring their expertise in mental health employment services to help improve job prospects for young people throughout Australia.

"We are able to provide a specialist consultant to assist nbn staff and young participants involved in the training sessions and also refer young people to the program,” he says.

 "Ostara Australia also provides ongoing support to young participants after the program, to assist with their journey to employment."

You can find out more information about the program at here.

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