By Axel Nordberg, Essity Global Brand Director (www.essity.com)
Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses; we must be learning all our lives.
As we emerge from the depths of a historic pandemic, the words of Florence Nightingale have never rung truer for carers around the world. From adapting to PPE requirements to abiding by social distancing, Covid-19 has forced all carers to relearn key parts of their trade to keep their residents safe and healthy.
Naturally, this has not come without a cost. According to our data at Essity, the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on either the physical health, mental health or emotional wellbeing of more than eight out of ten of the UK carers surveyed. Every carer said their role had changed, with 95% working longer hours to manage urinary incontinence, cleaning and sterilising responsibilities – the highest of any country in Europe. Ultimately, the bravery of our frontline heroes can only endure this emotional and physical toll for so long.
In the face of adversity, however, we must look forward. The development of digital health technology – and the appetite to integrate it into care homes – is accelerating at an exceptional rate, and the indus- try is realising that it is an essential component of a more efficient, higher quality future for care.
TAKING THE CHANCE TO CHANGE
The pandemic has provided the care industry with a moment to step back and evaluate how it operates. Alongside the long-term impacts of Covid-19, an ageing population will soon demand a new delivery of care – with care homes unlikely to be able to accommodate every patient that needs their service.
For many, home treatment will become the practical solution. In recent years, digital health technology has made this process safer and more comfortable for those who require care, their families, and their carers. From medication reminder apps and ECG wearables, to information-sharing software that lets nurses access patient data remotely, innovation is delivering products and solutions to cater for home care.
As more care organisations integrate digital health technology into their operations, they build the infrastructure for a digital future of care. With over a third of carers wanting the government or private companies to invest in more technology, there is a clear appetite to make that next step forward from those that matter.
IMPROVING DIGNITY AND COMFORT THROUGH TECH
To bring the power of digital health technology to life, it is important to discuss it in the context of the real, day-to-day issues putting an insurmountable strain on carers.
Managing urinary incontinence – an important yet challenging aspect of a carer’s day-to-day role – has had both a physical and emotional impact on the carer during the pandemic, with the rate of resultant exhaustion (25%) and resentment (13%) rising by 19% and 10% respectively since 2019. It’s not just the carers that are impacted – 80% of carers find it hard to maintain the dignity of those suffering from the problem.
Deploying technology to address these issues can be life-changing for carers and those needing care alike. However, the UK is currently lagging behind. Only 27% of UK carers said that they have access to sensor technology to support incontinence care, compared to the European average of 32%.
Reusable sensors, such as our recently launched TENA SmartCare Change Indicator, can track when a patient needs changing and provide app notifications to their carers, ensuring instant attention and avoiding unnecessary checks. With 71% carers currently struggling with the time required to make frequent checks associated with urinary incontinence, this technology is invaluable to the efficiency of their role.
ENABLING A BETTER TOMORROW FOR CARE
The value of digital health technology in the management of urinary incontinence is just one example of the impact it can have in a care environment, albeit a strong one: 98% of UK carers say that it helps them feel better about their role.
This figure alone highlights the value of digital health technology in enabling carers to react to health issues sooner and in a smarter way. By integrating technology into the care routine, any decline in the residents or loved one’s well-being, however slight, can be tracked and used to notify those that can provide the necessary support. As patterns appear in their personal data, it even has the potential to allow carers to predict and prevent various health issues.
As an industry, we must continue to work together – as innovators and carers – to co-create digital health technology solutions that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. The pandemic has provided the care sector with an opportunity to engage in digital transformation and provide its frontline heroes with the technological support they need to keep those in care, safe, healthy, and happy. Better connected care will deliver better care, for everyone.