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 – which brings together teams from NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS Improvement – was working with technology companies to help individuals access emotional support and companionship during the Covid-19 outbreak. Within this, social networking platform Facebook was set to donate Facebook Portal video calling devices to care homes. Facebook Portal devices were also due to be given to hospitals and other settings, and at the time of writing, 50 had already been sent to pilot sites.
According to care sector specialist Blueleaf, ‘care homes used to be notoriously behind the times when it came to technology’, but now this
‘couldn’t be further from the truth’. What’s more, Daniel Casson, digital development executive at Care England (a representative body for independent care providers), says that the coronavirus crisis – while ‘a horrible thing to happen’ – has ‘accelerated the use of digtal
technology’ in care homes for older people ‘exponentially’. He believes the crisis constitutes ‘a kickstart for digital transformation in care’.
Speaking in the midst of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown in April, Daniel explains that video calling is one of the key ways that care homes for older people in England are using digital technologies during this time. Aside from being used to allow residents to keep in touch with loved ones, this means of communication is also being deployed to provide care and entertainment. GPs are undertaking consultations via video link and speech therapists are ‘using it very successfully to keep in touch with their clients’, while care home entertainers are also providing entertainment in this way. Daniel notes that NHSmail, the national secure collaboration service for health and social care in England and Scotland, has been rolled out across all care homes, giving them access to collaboration hub Microsoft Teams.
The digital development executive says that remote monitoring in care homes for older people in England has ‘seen massive growth’ and that homes are ‘finding new ways to recruit digitally’ with regards to taking on staff. Homes with electronic care planning processes are using these in order to help themselves work with individuals with coronavirus ‘in the best way’ in order to isolate them or know of their whereabouts. Daniel adds: ‘There are various tools in place now with the Care Quality Commission and NHS England to help people input data so they can see hotspots where there are resource deficiencies.’
Daniel says that both residents and staff of older people’s care homes benefit from the use of digital technologies. For care homes, digital technology-usage means they’re more efficient with how they use their staff – 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, using digital technologies improves residents’ quality of life by giving carers ‘the gift of time’: 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’. The employment of these technologies can also stimulate residents as they can have contact with their families whenever they wish (depending on capacity-level). Digital technology use in older people’s care homes can additionally improve residents’ quality of life by giving homes instant access to their preferences via the data about them.
Daniel believes work remains to be done on Multidisciplinary Team Meetings conducted via video. However, given that he also feels that work will be done going forward to attempt to improve upon the technological work undertaken in care during the coronavirus crisis, it looks as if the future is digital for older people’s care homes.
‘Technology gives carers the gift of time. They now can be with the people who really need them’
The use of digital technology has become more prevalent in care homes
Smart tech helps keep health issues in check
Technology means data can be accessed quickly
ABOVE: Video calling has helped to keep families in touch during the coronavirus crisis