Health Europa Quarterly speaks to Person Centred Software’s co-founder and director Jonathan Papworth, about developing the care home of the future, and why care providers need to be planning ahead, today.
Technology has already changed all our lives. The little machines we carry around perform so many more functions than just a simple phone. However, while smartphones and tablets have revolutionised our lives, they are yet to fully impact the care sector.
The Care Act 2014 was the first major reform of social care law for more than 60 years. Among the key measures promised were:
- A duty to promote ‘wellbeing’ and consider the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the individual needing support, not just their narrow care needs; and
- Carers to be entitled to an assessment of their own wellbeing needs and, for the first time, to have a legal right to have those eligible needs met.
Evolving digital support for the sector is helping to achieve these standards. Yet a 2016 review by South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA) found that more than three quarters of care homes in the UK still rely on paper systems to monitor and record the status of each resident; and with an ageing population and tighter budgets, more needs to be done with less. With increased pressure on care providers, Jonathan Papworth believes technology needs to be central to care homes of the future.
Papworth explains: “If a care home only has basic internet and relies heavily on paper documentation, it can be extremely difficult to prove compliance in every eventuality and evidence the quality of care they are providing. Our Mobile Care Monitoring system enables care homes to be fully compliant with regulators and document the care they provide.
“Many care homes may be reluctant to take the first steps on their journey to becoming fully digital and transforming the care they provide. But the benefits far outweigh the initial investment and training need not be a lengthy process taking staff away from the frontline.”
Pay, progression, recruitment and retention of staff in the care sector has been an issue for many years. Many staff do not feel they have enough time to engage with residents and build up a rapport as they spend too long on admin and paperwork.
However, rewarding, respectful relationships between staff and residents are key to the quality of life of residents – and mobile technology is the key to those relationships.
Papworth argues: “Why can’t care be delivered in a way that benefits both the resident and the carer? A fully digital care home will enable carers to record information at the point of care. The tools they need to do their job are literally at their fingertips. They will also be more skilled and feel more valued and empowered to do their jobs well, making it more likely they will stay in the job.”
An ageing population with increasingly complex needs presents a challenge for the care sector, leading to increased training demands for staff and better partnership working with the health sector – particularly primary care. This will all take place against a backdrop of tighter budgets and limited resources.
Some care homes are already readying themselves for the future by investing in technological solutions. Not only do they help carers, they can also help support residents to gain and maintain a level of independence, give residents a sense of ownership over their lives and a new level of person-centred care. Features such as Relatives Gateway, a secure online portal for the loved ones of care home residents, can also help friends and family members keep in touch with developments, wherever they are in the world.
Papworth adds: “Mobile Care Monitoring includes features that may not be medical, or health related. For example, it could record when and how a person likes to have a shave. It’s small details like this that can really make a difference to people’s lives.
“Person-centred care is a concept that has been at the cornerstone of care for many years. For carers, it helps them proactively look after the people in their care by providing them with the tools to do the job well and feel more valued in their career.”
Care providers have a big role to play in developing the care home of the future – and not just because they hold the purse strings.
The digital journey can be broken down into three steps:
- The initial digitisation process, implementing a digital care system, mobile device systems and digital care apps;
- Joining up care by integrating with best in field specialists, collaborating with partners and de-risking the use of incompatible digital systems; and
- Transforming care through data accessibility, incisive analysis and the ability to provide predicted and preventative care.
By taking the first steps on this digital journey, care providers will be able to retrieve data easily, manage occupancy rates and enable their workforce to become more empowered. If they complete the journey and truly transform care, the rewards are tremendous:
- Seamless, joined up health and social care in collaboration with other providers;
- The ability to become a differentiator within the care sector;
- The potential to attain better regulatory ratings;
- Better staff retention rates; and
- Greater cost efficiency.
Papworth continues: “Going digital isn’t as time consuming or labour intensive as some people may think. We can get most care homes up and running within 24 hours; and in the long term this saves one hour per person per day on paperwork – time that staff can spend with residents, leading to better outcomes all round.”
Data, data, data
Data may not sound a stimulating topic for care homes, but it is revolutionising the way care is delivered. Developments in AI and data analytics mean care can move from being reactive to proactive. Care homes can take preventative measures if they know, for example, the time of day and location where a resident is more likely to be at risk of falling.
Papworth adds: “It is easy to analyse data from our software and provide pre-emptive care to residents. With future developments and interoperability between health and social care systems, data sharing will become the norm where it can provide better care and improved health outcomes.”
Technology is moving fast, and no one can accurately predict the future. But there is no doubt that moving towards digitally enabled care homes will transform the sector. The tools already exist; we just need to use them.
This article is from issue 13 of Health Europa. Click here to get your free subscription today.