By Lisa Greaves, Business Development Manager, Connexin Health (www.connexin.co.uk)
The pandemic has forced change upon huge swathes of our society. From the way people work to how industries operate, adapting has been key to help- ing us navigate through this turbulent time.
Nowhere have we seen this more than in the health sector, particularly when it comes to technology. Covid-19 has forced our health services to rapidly embrace new ways of seeing and treating patients to ensure they receive the care they need while keeping safe. Solutions such as video consultations, once a rarity in the NHS, have quickly become the norm and look to remain so going forward.
While the digital transformation of healthcare has been in progress for some time now and accelerated by the pandemic, there are parts of the sector where the adoption of tech has traditionally been slower. One of these is adult social care, specifically care homes who have not historically been known for being hubs of digital innovation, though there are mitigating factors for this.
For example, many care homes are based in older buildings where it can be much harder to implement new technologies. However, the pandemic has shone a very stark light on the connectivity issues and care providers are eager to now put the foundations in place to support good WiFi connection so residents can connect quickly to devices to interact with the outside world due to physical visits being limited or non existent in some cases. With this improved infrastructure, comes the ability to upgrade other elements such as the telephony provision, access control and CCTV, all essential to keep services at a high level and the care of the residents at the heart of operations.
Now, thanks to the Government, providers have the opportunity until the 31st of March to secure the fund- ing to make this happen. The recently created Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund is providing £600 million to support adult social care providers during Covid-19, giving them access to resources that can help accelerate their digital transformation to protect staff and residents.
With funding available, if care providers put in place the right fundamental technologies now for immediate effect then it will also provide the premise for longer term benefits. To do this, they need to build from the ground up, focussing first on upgrading current infrastructure. This is important because unless things such as old telephone cabling are replaced and connectivity solutions like fibre broadband are brought in, it will hinder the implementation of hi-tech, connected Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in the future.
Once the right infrastructure is in place, this is when providers can look at bringing in platforms that will keep their care homes and assisted living spaces safe now and in the future, while saving providers time, money and improving quality of care.
For example, air quality monitors allow staff to see air flow and ventilation throughout the building and make changes accordingly. With good ventilation proven to reduce the concentration of COVID and the risk of airborne transmission, this will help keep staff and residents safe and protect them from catching and spreading the disease.
More generally, technologically enabled care can improve residents’ safety through tools such as sensors that monitor and alert staff when a resident falls or has an incident. At the same time, providers can use this technology to optimise staff workflow, limiting repeated tasks and time spent between residents, while also ensuring systems and processes are running efficiently to reduce downtime and interruption, and to adhere to CQC legislation.
From securing funding to upgrading infrastructure and implementing new solutions, this process may sound daunting to care organisations. However, technology partners are able to assist in this process, helping with the application for funding and then handling the implementation of the new infrastructure for immediate effect. A true long term partner will also be able to develop a digital transformation roadmap to incorporate IoT solutions to provide data driven insights for tomorrow.
The pandemic has presented so many challenges over the past year. However, it has also provided opportunities. Care providers now have a chance to access the resources and tools to digitally transform their facilities and through working with the right digital partners, can create the safe, secure places residents need to help them live better lives through the pandemic and beyond.