Let’s be clear about one thing before we start.
Using technology in care homes will never replace the human interaction that occupies the very heart of adult care. Nor will it ever replace the compassion, kindness, empathy and understanding between care providers and the people in our society who are care dependent and exposed to considerable vulnerabilities.
What technology does represent is the potential to enhance the quality of adult care by empowering care providers with ways to:
- improve operational efficiencies;
- reduce errors and risks;
- increase capacity to manage limited resources effectively;
- and most importantly, give care and nursing staff more time and space to deliver personalised care and support
Improving quality of care in care homes
If a care or nursing home is being established or upgraded, it is worth considering the contribution technology, and the clever use of data, can make to improve the care and support of residents living in the care or nursing home.
While many care home providers are already embracing technology and introducing WiFi in their homes, encouraging residents to make use of technology, by hosting computer classes to helping residents to use Skype and FaceTime to communicate with their relatives, care homes still have a long way to go before they fully embrace digital advances. Technology can offer a timely, efficient and useful way to capture and record care notes. For example, handheld mobile devices with appropriate software, can allow staff to update ‘in real time’ the care given or information they want to note about a person rather than adding it to the paper notes at the end of a shift.
The software could be configured to know what an individual’s normal day routine is, so can ask staff applicable questions, and offer a range of quick answers, at the right time, to speed up data entry. It increases what is recorded about the person so that staff and managers have a broader picture of a resident’s health and care. This system can also provide a gateway for relatives, so family members can log in from a distance to read information about their loved one’s day.
A lot of care homes already promote activities and exercise classes to keep residents fit and healthy. Technology doesn’t always involve sitting hunched over a computer, and can also provide both an active and involved hobby and an opportunity for social exercising.
Games consoles like the Nintendo Wii or peripherals such as PlayStation Move or Xbox’s Kinect offer fun, energetic games which can be played by multiple people. The games range in difficulty, with some requiring players to be on their feet and moving, and even sometimes running! Others, however, can be played while still sitting but require players to move their arms and sometimes legs.
The introduction of technology in care homes, whether its new software or iPads or any other device, must be thoroughly considered and planned for beforehand to maximise its potential. That of course brings additional financial challenges.
While there is no quick fix, it’s time for the 4 main groups in the sector the NHS, Social Care providers, the technology market providers and the regulators to start working in unison to create small changes with technology adoption. Whether it’s with mobile technology, the implementation of Wi-Fi or digital staff rotas, it is these digital services that can improve the patient experience.
The question of technology in care homes may therefore be not necessarily whether care homes should embrace technology but rather do care homes actually have the resources available to fully embrace technology?