The digital revolution in care: delivering the best outcomes for residents

Health providers are harnessing the power of technology to provide personalised, high-quality care services

Technology is at the heart of the government’s new health data strategy, which includes a promise of the rapid digitisation of social care by 2024. Bupa is leading the way with a widespread digital transformation across each of its care homes and villages (around 130 in total) as it looks to overhaul healthcare in its care and retirement settings.

“We see digitisation as essential for the future,” says Rebecca Pearson, general manager for Bupa Care Services. “Technology enables our people to spend more time on the most important part of the job; face-to-face, quality care for residents. By making our processes more efficient with technology, we can offer really personalised care. Our people form strong connections with our residents in our homes and villages and provide a life-enhancing experience.”

One example of this is in dementia care. At first glance, Bupa’s Richmond Villages Willaston looks like a modern flat development. But the six ground-floor neighbourhoods are in fact part of a specialist village for people in the early stages of dementia. It’s one of the first of its kind in the UK, where treatment is tailored to the individual. ‘Homemakers’ are on hand to help residents continue doing chores and hobbies they enjoy, enabling them to maintain their independence whilst also being there as discreet support as needed round-the-clock.
But it’s innovative technology that sets this model apart. At night, residents are acoustically monitored using technology inside their bedrooms that alerts staff if there are unexpected changes, indicating that someone is unwell or confused. Staff can act quickly if needed while otherwise enabling residents to get an undisturbed night’s sleep, maintaining their independence and quality of life.

It’s not just in dementia care where technology is changing the face of care services. Traditionally, staff in care homes have always filled out paper notes throughout their shifts including details about medication, wellbeing and feedback from the residents. It’s a time-consuming process that delays the feedback loop required to implement change quickly. But most importantly, it reduces the time a carer can spend having a conversation with a resident and building a positive, trusting relationship.

But a host of digital tools have been designed to change this and are now available to Bupa healthcare workers via a handheld device. Using eCare, carers now record every interaction with residents in real time, freeing up capacity for the real relationship-building that’s essential for high-quality care. April Parrott-Carter, home manager at Field House Bupa Care Home in Hertfordshire says: “We can now record notes on the go rather than afterwards in another room. This means that staff can record more detailed, up-to-the-minute accurate notes. They can also add more information about the resident’s mood, what they chatted about or what activities they had been taking part in. We used to spend an hour a day on paperwork, but now it just takes minutes.”

Another step-change is that the information recorded can be accessed by residents’ families in real time. This helps build up a full picture of what life is like in the home and how their loved ones are doing day to day. They can also choose ideal times to visit based on real-time information about their mood and behaviour. “Relatives have told me that they now sign in a few times a day to see how their relative is and what they’re up to, and especially the food they’re eating. They really enjoy having that insight,” says Parrott-Carter.

Attitudes towards technology in a care setting are changing, and expectations of standards are higher than ever. A recent study carried out by Bupa found that nearly 60% of those surveyed want to see more use of technology in care homes and feel it could provide more personalised and safer care. An overwhelming 75% also agree that tech could help carers to free up time.

Technology enables our people to spend more time on the most important part of the job; face-to-face, quality care for residents

“It’s what families expect to see, and increasingly, it will be what our residents expect too as we all become more technology-savvy. So it’s important that we lay the groundwork now,” says Pearson. “And crucially for us, technology is helping our people get back to what they love. Our people tell us they want more time to care. That’s why they came into this profession. So it’s up to us at Bupa to help make this happen.”

Taking its digital transformation one step further, Bupa workers will soon be utilising an electronic medical records system. This is designed to reduce the time it takes to administer medications safely and improve clinical outcomes, by creating a joined-up service that all health professionals, such as physiotherapists and GPs, can access and input records into.

As well as adding notes in real time about changes to care plans and medications, this also makes it easier to refer back to previous notes to look for patterns and factors affecting residents’ health, with residents’ full medical history available in one place, at the touch of a button.

All of Bupa’s quality monitoring processes are also now stored in a digital quality and compliance solution, which has been rolled out in each of its homes and villages. It helps care home managers to oversee and manage the core tasks they need to do to carry out quality monitoring and then make swift changes to day-to-day processes if necessary. Stakeholders and regulatory partners can also be updated with the click of a button, so managers no longer sift through files. With high standards and infection control measures essential, this thorough record-keeping enables Bupa care teams to demonstrate the robustness of their standards to regulators and authorities.

It’s not just about quality or compliance. A pilot project is underway trialling the use of a dementia memory game app which allows carers and families to play hundreds of personalised memory-provoking games with residents to enhance the quality of their time together.

Pearson says: “The use of digital tools and better data allows us to drive up quality standards and care outcomes for our residents. But ultimately, it’s the human connection that is at the heart of our digitisation journey. As residents adjust to a new life and environment, or deal with dementia, it’s the people caring for them that bring fun and laughter back into their lives. Through the use of technology, we want residents to have more of this essential connection with our teams, so that they feel at home and enjoy their time with us.”

Technology was once seen as an interface that symbolised the physical distance of separated loved ones. Now, it’s being harnessed to provide long-term solutions that keep families connected, improve the quality of care in care homes and villages across the UK and bring independence, meaning and happiness back into the lives of people in their later years.

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