Taking the call-bell home: a qualitative evaluation of Tele-HomeCare for children

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Tele-HomeCare (THC) delivers health care at home using telephone technologies. A THC service was developed as an adjunct to existing hospital and community care systems. It connected healthcare providers to children and families at home, during the initial transition from hospital to home, using video-conferencing phones and remote vital signs monitors. The goal was to support the transition from hospital to home, for children with subacute healthcare needs. This paper reports the qualitative evaluation of THC and describes the experiences of families supported by THC. A total of 16 mothers, four fathers and two adolescents from 16 families participated in a series of interviews conducted before, during and after THC. The interviews focused on the impact of THC on the children, on the families, and on their overall healthcare experience. Analysis of their accounts identified three subthemes: the stable child, a sense of security, and the healthcare-proficient parent. These subthemes were consistent across all time points and participants. Together they contributed to the overall effect of THC: the timely reunification of the family at home. THC was consistently reported to be an important resource that supported children and families during the transition from hospital to home. The benefits to children and families observed in this study may have also been a consequence of returning to their home environment, since THC allowed these children to be discharged home at a much earlier period. However, our findings are consistent with previous reports of the benefits of THC. Thus, THC is a successful method of healthcare service delivery that enables a safe return home with professional support provided remotely.

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