The hard realities of social distancing and self-isolation rules has forced technology enabled care (TEC) organisations to adapt their services quickly and find different ways of providing support into the community as the need for TEC services remains acute.
Here, the TEC Services Association (TSA), the industry body for technology enabled care, describes the innovative ways telecare providers are delivering their services into the community without putting vulnerable people at risk.
Social distancing has been a particular challenge for telecare monitoring services, but Astraline has created a solution – a social distance delivery service with self-install equipment that is easy to set up and requires no face-to-face contact with others. The team has complemented this with an over-the-phone install service, should the service user encounter any problems, and the equipment is delivered directly to the customer’s home and left outside for them to collect.
Joe McLoughlin, director of Astraline and Innovation, said: “We wanted to ensure that we were doing our bit in helping local people, at a time when communities coming together and supporting one another has never been more important. Adapting our local TEC responder service to allow them to deliver equipment with no contact with the customer is something we’ve never done, but we believe that this offer is a vital service.”
Doro, which has provided the telecare contract on behalf of East Sussex County Council since 2005, has also launched a similar service model called ‘Drop to Door’ to ensure telecare can still be installed quickly and safely. All documents are completed over the phone with the customer services team. The engineer then arrives at the property, knocks on the door and places the equipment and paperwork at the door. The engineers wait onsite while customers carry out the installation in case they need any guidance or support.
Lockdown has also prompted many telecare providers to move from reactive calls to proactive calling, in order to service the ‘shielded’ cohort of those at severe risk of illness from COVID-19 and reduce incidence of emergencies. Some monitoring centres have experienced increased volume of calls of up to 25%, with service users anxious about the pandemic or unable to access normal services. The likes of Doro, Astraline and amica24 have implemented welfare checking calls as a way of signposting clients to vital services such as medicines, food deliveries or getting in touch with family members on their behalf.
Astraline and Progress Housing Group are both working closely with local ambulance services throughout the crisis. When a call comes in about someone who has fallen but is non-injured, the ambulance control centre is now trained to deploy TEC emergency response teams rather than sending an ambulance – reducing the pressure on blue lights while demonstrating that integrated services and technology enabled care is pivotal in response.
Another positive adaptation from the pandemic is the acceleration of hospital discharge using technology. Doro and amica24 are both offering responsive installation packages of telecare to those leaving hospital, either delivered to their home within two hours of discharge or at point of referral. amica24 is supporting Herefordshire Council with rapid discharge in two hours with a pre-programmed GPS device connected directly to the monitoring centre. Meanwhile, Medequip Connect is offering Chiptech’s GPS GO Pendant with automatic fall detection and the EVA voice guided IP telecare unit as part of their discharge packages, both connected directly to alarm receiving centres (ARCs).
Doro, which is working in collaboration with NHS Cheshire CCG, provides a mobile phone with SOS button or Bluetooth option that connects straight to a wellbeing monitoring centre. Wendy Darling, Doro UK Country Director, said: “We have seen an unprecedented need for our services during the pandemic. We are working hard with hospital discharge teams across the UK to get people home from hospital as quickly as we can….during this very difficult time”.
But it’s not just about the technology; the TSA is seeing great examples of organisations expanding their capacity. NRS Healthcare, for example, has been easing hospital discharge and supporting the NHS with facilitated discharge between the hours of 8am and 8pm, while Doro Care UK is working closely with three acute trusts across Cheshire to ensure staff are quickly embedded within the Interdisciplinary and Emergency teams to facilitate timely and safe discharges seven days a week, with 24-hour support.
At TSA, we’re witnessing adaptations not only within TECS, but across the entire healthcare space, and there are plenty of other examples over and above what is quoted here. What pandemic has demonstrated is the need for change and disruption in how we deliver services within the community. Change is no longer coming, it has arrived.