Technology needs to be integrated into care homes

Zillah Moore, director at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses why technology should be integrated into care home construction and how local authorities must work together with builders, engineers and social care providers to ensure the benefits of technology in care homes are realised.

Residential care settings are rarely a place of positive choice. It is therefore incumbent upon architects and builders to work closely with local authorities and social care providers to create facilities which meet the needs and expectations of residents and their families, maximising their independence as well as their safety, and technology must feature high on the list of considerations.

Particularly in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, awareness of the role technology enabled care services (TECS) can play in providing better care and connecting staff, residents and loved ones is essential as part of any new build approach.  Systems offer numerous benefits, from automatic detection of events such as falls, enabling more privacy and dignity as well as mitigating their effects, to remote health monitoring reducing the need for face-to-face health appointments and reducing risk of cross infection. As well as improving quality of life and health outcomes, this can also reduce the pressure on primary and secondary care, resulting in associated cost savings.

The better application of technology will also help to reduce the strain on staff and carers, and provide managers with greater insight into how best to allocate resources. Greater integration of technology enabled care services (TECS) into care homes can not only mitigate the various impacts experienced during the pandemic, but support the reshaping of the social care sector and ensure services are safeguarded for the future.

However, as the pandemic continues to place unprecedented pressures on social care providers, a longer term approach is needed in order to meet the changing demands of modern care delivery. Working together with builders and engineers to ensure that the latest TECS are integrated into projects will not only allow the next generation of facilities to provide proactive and predictive care, but also reduce pressures on staff and support users in living safely and independently for longer.

 

The role of COVID-19

The last decade has seen an exponential increase in the adoption of technology across everyday life, with smart speakers, hearting and lighting systems now commonplace. However, the potential of technology to support care home residents and service users has yet to be fully realised, particularly in plans for new care homes, due to fragmented care structures, limited resources, and reluctance to change.

Technological and digital solutions have played a significant role in combating the various effects of COVID-19, however if integration into care homes had been achieved from the point of construction before the pandemic, social care providers would have been better equipped to cope with the resulting pressures and requirements.

Construction firms, engineers, architects and planners must educate themselves to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the range of technology available and the practical skills to ensure technology can be deployed appropriately into new care home building projects.

In addition to hardwired technologies, there are now innovative solutions on the market that can be integrated into care homes which move beyond traditional fixed call points by using wireless technology to enable care to be more efficient and responsive. For example, nurse call systems which not only interact with wearables and can be managed from anywhere at any time, but also support numerous telecare integrations and sensors for more person-centred care delivery.

It is vital that technology plays a pivotal role in how care homes are designed post-COVID. The potential of technology and digital innovations must be harnessed if care home operators are to transform the care available. Technology enables upstream interventions which result in better outcomes for care home residents, while helping to address rising demand and the changing use of social care.

 

TECS in action

Park View Nursing Home in Halifax is a 41 bed home offering comprehensive and individualised 24 hour care. Recently a new nurse call system was installed which has transformed the way care is delivered, increased efficiency and the quality of life of residents.

Park View had an 18-year old nurse call system which used wall mounted units in residents’ rooms which would emit loud alarms throughout the building if a resident activated the unit. Several screens in communal areas of the building would then give details of the resident asking for assistance. The existing system was coming to the end of its life, therefore the Park View team partnered with Tunstall Healthcare to introduce Tunstall Carecom as a cost-effective, advanced and integrated nurse call and telecare system.

Traditional nurse call systems used in care homes rely on wired infrastructure with fixed call points to accommodate the restrictions of the building, rather than meeting the needs of residents and staff. Tunstall Carecom is a flexible system better suited to the demands of modern care delivery, by enabling care to be designed around individual residents. The system is wireless, and beacons are installed at strategic locations which interact with smart pendants worn by residents.

Caregivers can manage the system on a number of devices, including a mobile app, and calls from individual residents can be routed to specific carers. Managers can access an intuitive, GDPR compliant online care planning platform which documents auditable activities and provides management reporting.

Since installing the wireless system, Park View has secured a range of benefits including reduced noise levels, increased dignity, more effective care planning, increased morale, and a more person-centred approach.

 

The future of care homes

While short term fixes are important in combating the effects of the pandemic and delivering effective care, a longer term approach is required, which takes into account what services users are looking for and the solutions available. For example, the better application of technology to reshape health and social care, consideration of how new care homes are built, and innovative methods of integrating technology into construction.

Builders and engineers have the opportunity to play a crucial role in supporting local authorities and social care providers to generate innovative ideas and in-depth plans, and use TECS to improve resident experiences, reduce the strain on staff, and deliver cost savings.

 

For more information about how technology can be integrated into care homes, and the technology available, please visit https://www.tunstall.co.uk.

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