By Graeme Rider, Co-Founder, www.backpain.online
Through the toughest of times imaginable over the last few months, the extraordinary dedication of employees across the care home and social care sector has been tested in a crucible and evidently demonstrated. While the industry pushes for the implementation of promised reform, employees brace themselves for a tough winter with local outbreaks, flu season and supporting new patients either with “long COVID” symptoms or those whose health has declined because of lockdown.
Thinking ahead to the next few months will be hard for workers in the sector. As well as the challenges ahead, with long hours and new protocols, it has also been hard for care home workers to look after themselves over the last few months.
As the country went into lockdown, we all had reduced access to important care, less facetime with our physios, osteopaths, chiropractors, dentists and more. Coronavirus led to digital healthcare being fast-tracked, to help serve the country during a global pandemic. Now, with longer public sector waiting lists and access to private healthcare out of reach for many, more and more of us are turning to our devices to seek help.
Technology has been on hand as lives have been transformed. Whether you’ve used it to Zoom children or grandchildren or to tried to book a Tesco delivery slot, it’s helped us cope this year. In particular, digital health can be a lifeline to carers who are not able to access in-person services for a variety of reasons. Given the rigours of many of the jobs in the sector, both physically and mentally, care that maintains wellbeing is critical for an industry with significant resourcing challenges.
Unfortunately, what we see too often is that when care is not provided in-person, the virtual replacements can skew to generic advice, which is highly challenging when people have extremely diverse needs.
Digital healthcare is still in its infancy, but industries are increasingly looking to it to help maintain the well- being of their workforce. However, the solutions offered need to be accessible, intuitive, personalised and also affordable (particularly to avoid ROI hesitancy). Finally, they need to be adopted! Care homes need to select the right, helpful digital health services and consider how to encourage their uptake.
The last point is critical because many injuries are much worse at the point of diagnosis because patients leave it too long. Early intervention is crucial in not only minimising the effects of an injury but also maintaining a healthy workforce, and at the current time, traditional services are difficult to access for carers. Technology can fast-track the entire process from intervention to recovery.
Digital healthcare enables anyone with an internet connection and a device to have immediate responses from experts or access to expert advice. There is also onus on the website or application to be as user friendly as possible, especially for those who aren’t digitally savvy. A platform that’s accessible and intuitive will result in happier users and healthier ones. This in part frees up time and resourcing at homes, where staff can continue to focus on key parts of patient care without feeling stretched.
Those without access to appointments or consultation via digital health apps may resort to generic advice and exercises online. They may have self-diagnosed an injury based on Google and then searched for educational or rehabilitation videos based on incorrect information. A personal high-touch approach, where experts review your story, your data and provide a personalised recovery for you, means you still get the professional advice but at the touch of a button.
Affordability is also important at a time when costs are being cut and many homes are struggling to break even, whilst still trying to provide the best levels of support. Digital platforms can bridge the gap between the NHS which can’t always meet patient demand and the private sector which can price out parts of the population.
At a time when services are stretched and more of us at home, it’s important that healthcare providers get their digital alternatives up to scratch in order to maintain wellness for care home professionals. More of the population now turn to the internet and their devices for help with their mental and physical wellbeing. Having digital platforms configured to serve the public in the best way possible will lead to us all leading healthier lives.