We are really thrilled!
Our supported Tele-medical Care and Medication Guidance Pilot Project has reaped another three great awards at the Hong Kong city-wide open competition, “2021 Best Practice Awards in Social Welfare” organized by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
On 31 March 2022, the project team from Sai Kung District Community Centre (“SKDCC”) was honored with the Outstanding Social Service Award, the Service Delivery Award (Innovative Ideas) and Service Delivery Award (Evidence-based Practice). This came just months after this same project was awarded the Best COVID-19 Global Community Project Award at the 9th Global Conference of the Alliance of the Healthy Cities.
This project, running from July 2020 to October 2021, was one of ZeShan’s recent efforts to address the challenges rural elderly face to attend general outpatient clinic follow-ups under the COVID-19 pandemic. We attempted to test a solid and replicable service model as an alternative to facilitate the long-term development of telemedical care in Hong Kong. Through this pilot project, we are exploring other effective solutions to improve the rural elderly’s access to the primary care system and related healthy inequity issues. By the time of writing this, ZeShan has approved a new grant and finalized a new partnership to support SKDCC to expand mobile healthcare services in remote villages.
Cherished the most was our 2-year learning journey together, beginning in early 2020 when SKDCC team invited us to visit Sai Wan Village, a remote village in Sai Kung. “I still recall, ZeShan staff, in their hiking outfit, trekked into the village with us. They were sweating, speaking to villagers and listening patiently about healthcare service gaps in these remote villages, and of course, our long-term vision there. I believe, this visit was where our partnership started,” Ms. Eva Chan, SKDCC Service Director, said.
Indeed, our journey was marked with courage. As early as 2018, SKDCC team considered telemedical care not only necessary but also difficult to implement in rural areas. Numerous were operational hurdles — the lack of similar experience locally and telehealth support, villagers’ reluctance for new service trial, poor IT skills and poor coverage of mobile network, etc. As Eva recollected, from the first day they discussed with us together on this project planning and proposal writing, courage was the key. “The longest road can be walked off step by step. The shortest path, however, cannot be reached if one refuses to even mark one’s footprint.” She humbly thanked us for embarking on this difficult journey together. So did we.
Perhaps there is nothing more encouraging to see the multi-party collaboration being given a full play throughout this pilot project. This was another key success factor, as Mr. Jim Ho, SKDCC Program Director, recalled. He was very grateful for all the valuable support and advice from the members of our project steering committee, who came from very diverse background, including academics, healthcare professionals, social and philanthropic workers. SKDCC team also received very intense and strong support from community and healthcare partners, St. James’ Settlement Philanthropic Community Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sociey of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Telemedicine Association.
Looking back, Jim considered this project effectively addressing the uneven distribution of public resources with a timely provision of telemedical care and medication guidance. With an independent party’s 12-month-long output and outcome evaluation, we were able to understand users’ and their family members’ preferences concerning telemedical care and the feasibility of co-payment. Unexpectedly, we also learnt about villagers’ high demand for home delivery of medicines.
This journey has made both of our organizations more courageous as we are planning our new project to expand mobile healthcare services in remote villages. For a funding agency, supporting a trial or an experiment could be risky as success is not guaranteed. For a community-based NGO, managing multi-party collaboration could also be painful as harmony and synergy are not guaranteed either. Without courage, neither of us could proceed, with an appetite for both unexpected failures and successes.