Guest article: How embracing assistive technology will be pivotal for care homes in the future
An ageing population and funding challenges have placed social care providers under pressure. Staffing shortages, lack of funding and inefficiencies have all led to health and social care services finding it increasingly difficult to provide the required care.
To ensure social care operators are safeguarded for the future and can continue to support the most vulnerable in society, industry leaders must investigate how to meet this surge in demand, and protect against future health crises like COVID-19.
The future of care is already beginning to emerge in response to the current health and care crisis with initiatives, such as the Nightingale care home, developed to meet the demands for extra capacity and care of the vulnerable not yet ready to return to the community.
Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director of market-leading provider of Connected Care and Health Solutions Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the future of care homes and the crucial role of assistive technology in enabling providers to continue meeting care demands.
By Gavin Bashar
The future of care homes
Social care systems have often been established with reaction rather than prevention in mind. It is crucial that there is a shift in this behaviour to enable greater input into development and innovation.
Care providers need to become more progressive and embrace available opportunities. As we live longer, demands on social care services will increase and the impact of the changing health and care landscape needs to be considered. Professionals must explore how they can improve the support they deliver and the ways in which technology-enabled care in particular, can help the elderly and vulnerable to live well.
Investment needs to be made in empowering residents through cost-efficient and appropriate preventative and proactive measures, to continue living as independently, happily, healthily and securely as possible. Care homes of the future should give every stakeholder from carers to GPs the insight they need to deliver better outcomes and support residents seamlessly throughout their care journey.
As the world moves towards an increasingly digital future, the social care industry needs to progress and become digitally enabled. The next generation of systems will become more predictive, using patterns in data to anticipate possible events such as falls by identifying changes in behaviour, ultimately allowing organisations to deliver efficient care to their communities while also enhancing cost-effectiveness and quality of care.
The role of technology
It’s crucial that the role of technology in developing the care homes of the future is understood, and technological advancements are embraced.
Advanced wireless and digital systems which move beyond traditional, fixed-call points, such as Tunstall Carecom, will enable providers to meet the demands of modern and future care delivery, and support residential and nursing care. Wireless and digital technology will enable care to be more efficient and responsive, and allow for straightforward, non-obtrusive installation.
Care homes can use technology to deliver a robust platform for health and care delivery, connecting people to enable more proactive and preventative care. Investment in technology solutions now will also mean we have a sustainable and scalable network in place should we ever have to face such a crisis as COVID-19 again.
Technology can work across a wide range of devices including wearables and mobile phones, so that carers can manage the safety of residents from anywhere at any time, securing rapid responses, and enabling person-centred care delivery. Early detection of changes in the behaviour of residents and solutions tailored for individual needs can also create more effective care delivery and support management in making better informed, date-driven decisions.
Systems which support numerous telecare integrations and sensors, including wearable devices, and offer automatic alarms will give residents greater freedom and independence, and carers more opportunities to interact with residents on a sociable and personal level.
The future in action
NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group in West Yorkshire has been working closely with Calderdale Council since 2012, establishing a more consistent and sustainable model of care for older and vulnerable individuals in Calderdale.
The initiative was developed, which combined a Multi-Disciplinary Team, real-time access to live clinical records for GPs and Quest for Quality in Care Homes Matrons, and telecare and telehealth systems, aiming to:
- Improve quality of life for residents
- Reduce avoidable ambulance call-outs, A&E attendance, hospital admissions and GP visits
- Improve resident/patient care and safety
- Respond more effectively to urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, falls and fractures
- Support staff to feel confident in providing high-quality care
The project has created a new model for care delivery which is replicable and scalable, and addresses the challenge of care home residents being disproportionate users of local health services.
The results are impressive: hospital bed days down 68 per cent year on year; GP care-home visits reduced by 45 per cent compared to homes not in the research programme; hospital admissions down 26 per cent year on year; £799,561 in savings from reduced hospital stays; and the number of falls reduced by 18.6 per cent.
This work illustrates how embedding technology in service delivery can change how health and social care works in real life. It makes the lives of older and more vulnerable people safer and at the same time, helps the NHS and social services free up resources to invest elsewhere.