GUEST COLUMN: How care technology is helping to bridge gaps in communication and efficiency

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Lorcán Murray, marketing executive of home care software supplier CarePlanner, explains how technology is helping to bridge gaps in communication and efficiency, allowing for a focus on frontline care.

Connection lies at the heart of care. And one of the biggest challenges for providers during the pandemic has been maintaining those connections, both with their service users and their staff.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that CarePlanner witnessed a big upswing in the usage of the digital communications tools provided by our platform in 2020.

We took a look at the usage of our diary entry system, which provides a kind of digital logbook for recording incidents, compliments, complaints or significant changes to a service user’s care arrangements.

In 2018, our customers were producing an average of just 2,000 diary entries each per year. By 2019, this average had jumped to over 3,800 per year. And by the end of 2020, it had grown again to over 6,000 per year.

It’s a similar story with our mobile app notes functionality. In 2018, customers were producing only around 600 of these each year. By 2020, this had grown to 3,300 per year.

So it’s pretty clear that the combination of COVID-19, its attendant restrictions and the impact of social distancing has led to social care teams embracing digital communications tools like never before. But, just as people need to communicate with one another to work effectively and efficiently, machines need to do the same.

Collaboration with Hillingdon Council

At CarePlanner we have spent much of the last year working on how to facilitate these machine-to-machine connections, stripping away time-consuming and error-prone processes of uploading and downloading spreadsheets to give managers more time to focus on care delivery.

To this end, we set about building a direct connection with a call monitoring system deployed by the London Borough of Hillingdon. The team at the council had built a platform-agnostic system to collect data automatically from any provider in the area, regardless of which rostering system they chose to use. We admired this progressive move: rather than lock themselves into one particular software system and then mandate its usage, the council had chosen to publish a simple and open specification and then invited care software providers to integrate.

“At Hillingdon we deal with around 26,000 home care calls per week provided by nearly 50 different care providers,” says Ron McNab, Care Compliance and Electronic Call Monitoring System Manager at Hillingdon County Council. “It has been essential to be able to automatically process large amounts of data from multiple organisations and it is systems such as CarePlanner’s Interconnector that allow us to do so effectively.”

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Best practice

Following this work, we were approached by Essex County Council. We referred them to Ron and his team, and soon Essex had followed suit with an almost identical system. This gave them all the same benefits, as well as a ‘second mover advantage’ in that the necessary development work had already been done.

We believe that this is a great example of how learning from best practice can deliver real benefits to those involved in delivering care.

“By the time that the Payments Team arrive on a Monday morning the Actuals are in the system awaiting payment finalisation for all the calls carried out or updated during the preceding week,” says Ron, outlining some of the efficiency savings that the system brings to the council, and to providers who no longer have to produce weekly spreadsheets.

We think that this trend – of open, interconnected systems – is one that is set for major growth. And, judging by the language coming out of Whitehall, policy makers are thinking the same. Whilst the recent health and social care white paper garnered much media attention, it is the quiet, continued work of the digital unit NHSX that will have a greater bearing on how social care technologies continue to develop.

We like to think that it will be the 2018 policy paper, The Future of Healthcare, that will drive future innovation, with insights such as this one: “We should be using the best off-the-shelf technology where our needs are like everyone else’s, and not building bespoke solutions where they are not needed.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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