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From anathema to the answer: Technology’s emerging role in home care

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The objectives are simple.

The need to maximise operational efficiencies to meet current and projected fiscal challenges and demographic changes and then deliver outcomes-based care solutions that meet the expectations of funders and the increasingly complex personal needs and priorities of individuals.

Of course, on paper, the objectives are straightforward. However, the practicalities of delivering effective, reliable, consistent, affordable and sustainable care in the home are quite another matter. And the disparate and evolving needs of individuals adds further complexity.

Knowing what’s gone before is not sustainable, Allied Healthcare are determined to provide their customers with the reliable and personalised care they rightly expect. So they’re gone back to the drawing board to determine how they can deliver person-centred care as efficiently and effectively as possible - and to do so within known funding parameters. The aim is to develop a comprehensive, truly integrated, scalable approach for the delivery of care services that will provide the required operational capacity in tandem with an unprecedented level of service personalisation.

Grasping the nettle

Although the health sector has benefited from technological advances over many years, when it comes to care in the home service delivery is often still
dependent on spreadsheets, handwritten instructions and manual interventions. Here, new technology has been pretty much an anathema. Keen to test long-held assumptions, the team set out to identify how, where and what technologies could make a real difference in delivering both operational and financial benefits in the delivery of person-centred care solutions in the home. To do that in a planned and controlled way, a new way of working
needed to be created that was more conducive to innovation and progression.

Technology experts were commissioned and they consulted extensively with the organisation’s care teams and commissioning bodies. This helped to develop a roadmap for implementing a new generation of care solutions based on new ways of working where both emerging as well as proven technologies could be harnessed fully. And, significantly, the new model will move towards care to be measured in terms of effectiveness and wellbeing of customers rather than arbitary records of visit, punctuality and duration.

Plans into practice

The first major step was the development of a new operational structure where care teams are created to focus entirely on local service delivery. The new approach provides the right processes and management structure to ensure the right people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time. This provides the foundations for progressive service developments that fit the best processes and meet the real needs of those receiving care - as well as their families, regulators and, not least, the carers themselves.

The people and process aspects have been piloted and embedded in a number of community based branches. The team is now building on this by working closely with specialist IT software solutions companies developing new technology for service transformation, covering three key
areas:

  • automated scheduling of visits, including route optimisation and all variables regarding the availability, experience and skillset of carers
  • digitised care plans for every recipient of care services
  • mobile enablement for every member of a care team.

Critically, all of these initiatives have to be integrated fully to deliver real-time information, service consistency and accountability if the risks of errors and delays arising from the manual routing and scheduling of visits are to be eliminated. Technology is enabling us to achieve just that. And carers have all the information and updated instructions at their fingertips and in real time.

Digitisation is the cornerstone

Digitised care plans and the mobile enablement of care teams are at the heart of the new service delivery model. Significantly, comprehensive and personalised care plans can now be captured on the secure smartphones, providing carers with all relevant instructions and constantly updated support information. The new mobile enablement also provides automatic verification of visits using a near field communication (NFC) devices and the ability to capture any early warning signs so that, for example, a care delivery manager can take prompt steps to arrange for the intervention of specialist support as required.

Ongoing analysis of the new digital data will help to constantly align the care being delivered with the outcomes that matter most to individuals and to the funders of care. This truly integrated and expansive approach will help to extend service capabilities and responsiveness. It will also create new opportunities for dedicated portals for clients, customers and families, as well new gateways to client systems. It’s not change for the sake of change. The considered adoption of new technologies can help provide an even greater level of personalisation and responsiveness at a lower cost. And this is being achieved at thesame time as delivering new care paths, the transparency and greater accountability expected by regulators and the agility that’s
required in an ever-changing care environment. All of this has only been possible by truly grasping the opportunities presented by new technologies.

Case study supplied by Allied Healthcare, as part of its LGC & HSJ integration report

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