Today technology is everywhere. It affects everyone’s lives on a day to day basis; whether you’re paying with a contactless card for your shopping or asking Alexa to play your favourite song. So how can we bring technology into the Health and Social care sector to support high-quality care?

Benefits of Technology in Care

There are major benefits to using technology in care, from a simple talking alarm clock for people suffering with Dementia to detailed, person-centred digital care plans. By using technology, carers can give residents more control over their own health and safety and wellbeing. Alongside this it can give residents families and friends better communication. They can be updated daily with how their relative is doing, or the detailed progress notes can be easily found when asked. By using technology, data can be captured and compared, this allows patterns to emerge which, in turn can improve the care that is being offered.

Person Centred Care

In homes where technology is being used daily the carers have found they have more time to be with the residents rather than spending hours on end completing paperwork. This is in line with the CQC’s new stance on how they are grading Care Homes with the ‘mum test’. Andrea Sutcliffe stated in 2014:

 

 “Our new regulatory model has people right at its heart. We will ask the questions that matter most to people who use services, listen to their views, take action to protect them, and provide them with clear, reliable and accessible information about the quality of their services. The detail in the handbooks is about making the Mum Test real. On their visits, I will ask our inspection teams to consider whether these are services that they would be happy for someone they love and care for to use.”

A Care home that has taken this notion and used technology to help it deliver it is Marches Care home in Shrewsbury. Since using the iCareHealth suite of software, the home has seen a reduction of 20 hours a month on paperwork per resident. This has been cut down to around 3 hours of data entry for 5-6 residents. That valuable time saved is now spent with the people being cared for. Isn’t that what most people want for their mum?

Who does the Technology affect?

The notion of bringing the technology into a well-established care home can be a daunting prospect. There are several things that need to be covered and discussed before the technology can be fully integrated into the home. You need to make sure you are going to be getting exactly what you need out of it. You need to re-assure your staff that they will be fully trained and to discuss what everyone will gain from the addition of the tech. To some people, seeing carers walking around the home on mobile phones would be off-putting, thinking they are browsing social media etc. However, some tablets, phones and laptops can now block anything other than the care app to be accessed. It needs to be made clear to everyone involved, and that includes the residents’ friends and family, that the technology is coming in to help deliver more person-centred care and that care is only going to be improving as a result.

Where else can Technology influence care?

It is no secret that the country has had issues when it comes to giving the right medication at the right time to patients. Early in 2018 the former Health and Social Secretary Jeremy Hunt voiced his concern over the 22,000 recorded deaths every year linked to medication errors. When looking after many people it can be difficult to keep on top of medicines; when they were given, if they are low on stock etc. Some medication management software can keep on top of inventories and alert staff to missed medications. Bringing in a piece of software that keeps on top of this information can be life-saving.

Technology is not only changing the way Care Homes work, it can also benefit Domiciliary care also. In the same way having the technology within a care home dramatically increases the time carers can spend with residents, the technology for home care can also allow this. The carers can update care plans and progress notes when they are out in the field. This means the data entered is fresh and more likely to be detailed and correct. It stops the chance of mis-information and quick generic data entry at the end of day.

The CQC have 5 key lines of enquiry when inspecting a care service:

  • Are they safe? – eMAR systems help to record medicines and minimise mistakes. Carers can access care plans quickly and easily and keep them up to date. Carers can also analyse the data and find patterns in residents’ well-being such as falls, or sleep patterns.
  • Are they effective? – Devices such as tablets are available to record notes as they are given. They can also allow people to share records and data more easily.
  • Are they caring? – Do they support person-centred care and help staff to spend more time with the residents. Does the tech help the staff to be more efficient because their time isn’t taken up with admin work?
  • Are they responsive to people’s needs? – Can the software be tailored to an individual, show and express what an individual likes and dislikes.
  • Are they well-led? – Some technology can support more effective quality assurance through active communication. Data can be collected, shared, compared and analysed to identify risks, themes and allowing carers to see the bigger picture.

So how can technology support high quality care?

It can support high quality care in several ways if used correctly. It can allow more time to be spent with residents, and that care to be unique to the individual. It can let the residents’ care plans be easily accessible, meaning every carer can find it quickly and know what the best course of action is. It also gives peace of mind to the families of residents and those receiving care because they can ask to see what has been happening that week, or throughout the past month and it is easily found. Touching back on what Andrea Sutcliffe said; “I will ask our inspection teams to consider whether these are services that they would be happy for someone they love and care for to use.” After all, if you wouldn’t want your mum to receive care in a certain way, why would anybody else?

With all the available technology we have, we need to remember that its sole purpose should be to make the care for individuals better, safer and unique to them.