Embracing the future
How care homes for older people are using new technologies in a variety of innovative ways
In April, the UK government said that NHSX was working with tech companies to help individuals access emotional support and companionship during the COVID-19 outbreak. Within this, Facebook was set to donate Facebook Portal video calling devices to care homes.
How times have changed. Care sector specialist Blueleaf says care homes ‘used to be notoriously behind the times when it came to technology’
– yet now, this ‘couldn’t be further from the truth’. Daniel Casson, digital development executive at Care England, adds that the coronavirus crisis – while ‘a horrible thing to happen’ – has ‘accelerated the use of digital technology’ in care homes for older people ‘exponentially’. He feels the crisis constitutes ‘a kickstart for digital transformation in care’.
Speaking during the UK coronavirus lockdown in April,
Daniel says video calling is one of the key ways care homes for older people in England are using digital technologies at this time. Aside from being used to let residents keep in touch with loved ones, GPS are undertaking consultations with it, speech therapists are ‘using it very successfully to keep in touch with their clients’ and entertainers are also providing entertainment with it. Daniel also notes that remote monitoring in older people’s care homes in England has ‘seen massive growth’ and that homes are ‘finding new ways to recruit digitally’ as regards to taking on staff.
According to the digital development executive, the use of digital technologies means care homes are more efficient with how they use their workforce – their rostering can be done more efficiently – and they can save money on agency as they can communicate with people and bring individuals in for shifts. Meanwhile, employing digital technologies improves residents’ quality of life as staff ‘no longer have to rummage around for data and access’ and can monitor remotely, meaning ‘they have more time to be with the people who really need them’.
Digital technology-usage in older people’s care homes can also increase quality of life for residents – by giving homes instant access to their preferences via the data about them – and stimulate them as they are able to have contact with their families whenever they wish (depending on capacitylevel).
Daniel feels that more work will be done going forward to attempt to improve upon the technological work undertaken in care during the coronavirus crisis. As such, it looks as if the future is digital for older people’s care homes.
The likelihood is that you, or a family member, will have spent at least some time working from home since lockdown began. According to personal finance comparison site, Finder.com, a huge 60% of us were working from home as of April 2020, which has led many commentators to dub the last few months as a ‘ mass work from home experiment’.
The transition to working from home has no doubt been more welcome for some of us than others. Many people soon noticed positives such as an increase in productivity as a result of fewer distractions, as well as more time to actually spend working thanks to the elimination of time spent commuting. For some parents in particular, the ability to work from home and to work flexible hours has been a huge positive. In the long term, working from home has the potential to cause a reduction in pollution levels due to fewer of us embarking on the daily commute, and it can also save companies the costs that come with renting office space. Matt Mckenna, head of communications at Finder.com, explains that there can be financial benefits for each individual, too. ‘ Finder’s recent research found the average UK worker is currently saving around £45 each week by not commuting or buying lunch during the lockdown,’ he says.
Some have even said that this shift to remote working is long overdue, especially with vast improvements in technology in recent years and an ever-increasing number of us balancing working with childcare. ‘Surveys pre-pandemic show that many more people wanted to and thought they could work remotely than were allowed to. The pandemic seems to bear that out. Hopefully the experience will show employers who were resistant that it is possible to work effectively from home,’ comments Mandy Garner, managing editor of Workingmums.co.uk, an online platform that allows parents and carers to search for flexible, parttime and home-based jobs.
She adds that since Workingmums.co.uk was founded in 2006, attitudes among employers have changed hugely. ‘Flexible working was perceived mainly as a bit of a favour done to mums,’ she says. ‘There was little research about it. Now we have countless studies showing the benefits.’ Workingmums.co.uk also have a toolkit for employers on their website, which includes lots of remote working support. Matt agrees that we were already seeing a gradual shift before the pandemic. ‘A lot of companies had already come round to the idea of letting staff work from home occasionally, with benefits ranging from increased morale and job attractiveness, through to savings in office space,’ he says.
However, for others the transition has not been so smooth. A key concern is loneliness, with Finder.com reporting that 19% of remote workers were struggling with this. Even with video calls, it is very difficult to re-create the buzzing dynamic of an office. Many people also have a daily battle with a poor Wifi connection, and there’s the challenge of switching off once the working day is over. An office creates a physical and mental line between work and home, which is blurred when working from home.
It does seem that our offices still serve a number of crucial functions, but if current trends and attitudes are anything to go by, remote working looks set to continue for many more years to come.
According to the Women’s Engineering Society only around 25 per cent of girls aged 16 to 18 would consider a career in engineering.
Gloucestershire-based technologies company Renishaw spoke to Lily Joyce, senior project manager, about her experiences in the industry.
Lily has managed important and innovative projects such as the Olympic Bike with British cycling and, most recently, managed the machining of components for the Ventilator Challenge UK. She now wants to show other girls that there are so many pathways to explore in the industry.
Why did you decide to become an engineer?
Growing up I was fascinated with healthcare and how they use science and technology to save lives. At school, I attended a seminar about careers in medicine, which included a seminar on the engineering concepts of prosthetic limbs. I was excited to discover how biology and engineering can have such a profound impact on people’s lives.
Can you tell me about your career to date?
I studied Medical Engineering at Cardiff University, before joining Renishaw as a graduate. I started by shadowing other project managers in the Encoders Products Division.
During my time there I worked alongside design and manufacturing teams to manage projects involving maintaining product quality, maintenance of production lines and customer specific requirements I set up new processes and structures, involving entirely new ways of working.
I then moved into Group Engineering where I became involved in a broader range of business specific projects, from the Olympic bike to Ventilator Challenge UK.
What project are you most proud of?
Working as the project manager for Renishaw’s contribution to Ventilator Challenge UK, co-ordinating the production of critical machined components for two complementary devices selected by the NHS.
My role was driving the collaboration between our teams to produce over 100,000 parts in six weeks. I also acted as the contact between Renishaw and the wider consortium on all aspects, including project schedules, quality requirements and legal. I acted as the single point of contact, where effective communication and collaboration between consortium teams was essential for successful delivery of the ventilators.
What is your favourite project so far?
Working on the Olympic bike with British Cycling and Lotus has been an amazing experience. We started producing prototypes, before becoming a partner of British Cycling as its official additive manufacturing (AM) supplier.
As the design of the bike developed, I worked alongside Lotus to help design the bike for our AM machines, coordinating design and supporting as we moved into manufacturing. Though each bike is specific to its rider, there are common parts, so I helped establish a small production line.
What is your advice to girls considering a career in engineering?
My advice would be to do your research, explore what engineering involves and where it could take you. Engineering can lead you down many pathways. You may study it as an individual discipline, like mechanical engineering, but you don’t work alone — you are supported with software engineers, electrical engineers, project managers, marketing and more. When I was younger, I didn’t know what engineering was, as an industry we can raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities and show that they are open to everyone. I am now very passionate about the development of those entering the industry, helping them to progress along their own pathway and explore their skills in different ways.
Who is your STEM hero and why?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. I enjoyed her book Lean In, which is about how women working in technology can get their voice heard, not get lost in the room and the natural biases around men and women and how to counteract them.
I have since co-founded a Diversity and Inclusion Group at Renishaw, which will launch later this year, to support my colleagues of all backgrounds.