By Josh Hough, MD and Founder of CareLineLive
The UK’s budget announcement in October promised that the NHS in England would receive an extra £5.9 billion to help clear the backlog of people waiting for tests and scans, as well as buy equipment and improve IT in NHS hospitals.
With winter now upon us, taking a step back and assessing how else the NHS can be supported is crucial if its resources and staff are not to be overwhelmed. With winter flu and seasonal illnesses traditionally increasing the number of elderly people needing hospital treatment during the colder months, we need to look at home care processes and capabilities to help prevent hospital admissions.
Widening the adoption of technology in the home care sector is one way of ensuring that pressures are eased on services that care for our elderly and vulnerable living at home.
Empowering carers to track a person’s wellbeing and health
Technology can empower carers with the tools to identify and track mental and physical health issues before they get worse and can help them communicate concerns so clients can be treated before hospitalisation is required. Funding for the NHS is vital, but it is important to address the causes for hospital admissions within the elderly and the vulnerable, especially if they can be averted.
Home care agencies and carers play a huge role in easing pressures on the NHS. According to the Homecare Association, at least 15 million people need or receive care in their own homes, either from informal carers or paid-for home care workers. Due to the UK’s aging population, the demand for care is likely to increase, and many will want to receive care in their own homes. There’s a 28% increase in home care demand expected from 2018 to 2038.
With more and more elderly and vulnerable people wishing to remain in their own homes, the funding for greater technology adoption by home care agencies and staff needs to be prioritised. The sector already has a deficit of staff to those requiring care, so it is crucial that the people already working in home care in the UK become more efficient and also are encouraged to remain in the sector.
Information accessible in real-time
Easing pressure on emergency admissions within the NHS is often achieved by enabling individuals responsible for their care to have access to relevant information in real-time. Processes need to be streamlined and automated, otherwise carers will spend the vast majority of their time reading through hand-written handover notes, some of which may not be up to date, and files to understand their client’s needs, rather than spending time providing care itself.
Everyone within the Circle of Care – from community healthcare professionals and GPs to the emergency services, to the carer and the client’s family – need to have visibility to an individual’s relevant health records when necessary. This ensures that the client’s needs are met and that care is joined up. For example, if a client needs hospital treatment, the emergency services team can see the medication they are on, and their recent care history and notes.
Equipping agencies and carers with the right tools
Technology and software exist that enables care agencies to be more responsive to their client’s needs. Portals that offer family members, carers, and other stakeholders’ access to information when needed helps with communicating and keeping track of a client’s health.
This same technology can also be used to upload images and record observations carers have seen during a visit to their client’s home. This could include updates on whether or not the client had been eating properly and how they were feeling, as well as fluid intake and blood pressure readings.
Logging an image allows other carers to be completely aware of their client’s current state of health, if for example they had fallen over and this had led to a bruise on their leg, the carer knows this beforehand and needn’t be overly concerned. Comprehensive information can be stored and used by all stakeholders to gain a full picture of an individual’s health, allowing for treatment to be offered before situations progress to emergencies that require hospital treatment.
With developments in technology accelerating, the appetite for it is increasing. Faster communication with real-time data that carers can input into mobiles will help ease pressure on the NHS as carers will be able to take preventative measures before a clients’ health worsens. With many wanting to receive care in their own homes, it is vital that technology be used to streamline processes in the sector but also encourage people into the profession of care too, by making their daily jobs easier and more satisfying.