How Can Care Homes Use The Humble Text Message to Manage Communication Between Management Teams, Staff, Relatives and Visitors?

James O’Hare, MD LINK Mobility UK (https://linkmobility.co.uk), looks at the possibilities

As a regular visitor to my mother-in-law’s care home, I see first-hand how hard it is to deliver care under extraordinary circumstances. Among the challenges of the last two years, has been the pressure to stay on top of changing government guidance and keep everyone informed in a timely way of the latest in social distancing or lockdown mandates and the impact onvisiting hours and procedures.

It was clear that when teams were stretched, often because of illness or isolation, it was hard for management teams to find the time to call relatives and let them know the latest information. As a relative it can be very disappointing to discover you can’t enter the home when you arrive, due to outbreaks or staffing shortages.

It’s just as disappointing for the nursing teams. They know the benefit visits have on the wellbeing of their residents, particularly considering the emotional toll the last two years has had.

There is however a solution that can be borrowed from the logistics industry. There are numerous examples of companies using communication technology to manage operations and keep people informed.

Using a solution known as ‘communication platform as a service’, or CPaaS for short, they can send simple text messages to subsets of people that need to receive specific messages as a specific point in time. Before the pandemic it was used to inform people of a temporary change to site entrances while maintenance work was carried out, or to remind people to submit holiday requests or complete health and safety training before a deadline. During the pandemic it was used to informpeople of tack and trace requirements.

It’s a standard that could easily be borrowed by the care industry. Staff can be kept informed and updated on latest information ahead of a shift, and relatives could be sent updates to visiting times, or even links to an online system to book their visit, or confirm attendance to a Mother’s day lunch.

Third party suppliers could be issued health and safety procedures, or details of how to access the building on arrival. It could even be extended to local authority agencies that need to communicate a request for bed availability to alleviate the recurrent ‘bed blocking’ scenarios that are all too common.

In every case, managing the texts is straightforward and quick. The CPaaS tools can be configured to manage groups of people with templates for standard messages.Messages can also be written as required or in advance and set up to be issued at a specific time.

For large organisations, CPaaS could be used to help manage overtime and shift swaps when a carer is ill. The logistics industry offers a good template here; by integrating text messaging into staff scheduling systems. People can text a requirement for a shift swap and the system can automatically manage any agreed changes and update rotas.

The efficiency CPaaS can bring to care managementand the time it can save managers would deliver a rapid return on any investment. What’s more, relatives would value the communications, helping to build better relationships with, and confidence in, the management team.

If you are interested in using CPaaS then it’s worth looking at the NHS Shared Business Services Patient/Citizen Communications & Engagement Solutions procurement framework. Established at the end of 2021, the framework recognises the value communications brings to patient care and can provide guidance on how to procure services. It also has a list of approved suppliers who meet strict quality and secure data standards, imperative for ensuring personal data is managed properly and always protected.

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