The use of technology-enabled care (TEC) has risen rapidly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic – but not every social care provider feels ready to make the most of TEC. The Hubble Project – developed with funding from NHS Digital’s Digital Pathfinders Programme - enables care providers to learn from others who have introduced technology into their service.
Unlike other projects, the focus is not on what to introduce – but rather on how to do it.
Based on a series of virtual visits to three innovative care providers, the Hubble Project has published a series of films, information packs, templates and guides. When you watch the films, you’ll hear the whole experience of their TEC journey, warts and all.
For example, unobtrusive monitoring systems and circadian rhythm lighting, aligned to our natural body clock, are enabling residents at Parkhaven Trust’s specialist dementia care home, The Beeches, to get a better night’s sleep – improving their quality of life, and helping them to be more active during the day. And it is freeing up night staff to focus on those in most need of support.
Elsewhere at Spey House – an extra care housing scheme managed by Johnnie Johnson Housing – wearable technology which incorporates GPS systems is enabling people to remain independent outside of their own homes, but with support on hand when needed.
And at Elizabeth Finn’s Rashwood nursing home, mobile care records connected to electronic medicines administration have reduced medication errors, provided better joined up data to improve care and freed up staff time to care.
Some key messages emerged from the visits.
Focus on improvements to quality, safety and use of staff time, rather than on immediate financial return on investment. Make sure you know what you want to achieve.
Look at the TEC that other care services have installed before you talk to potential suppliers. Ask them about the whole process.
Get buy-in from staff, people using your services, and their families. Involve a cross-section of staff in developing requirements, testing and training. Identify likely early adopters, and those who may be more anxious about new tech – bring them together to support each other.
Remember technology will collect and store personal information – so make sure your information governance arrangements are in place. (You can use the Data Security and Protection Toolkit to help with this).
Having some level of inhouse technical skills and knowledge is valuable – but also look to external experts to provide advice on developing the specification and selecting suppliers.
Invest time and effort in good project management. Have a project plan that is achievable and not overly ambitious.Ensure your suppliers are flexible to adapting as required – build in some uplift into your budget.
Keep measuring the benefits, and feed this back to staff and management.
Don’t stand still.. Think five or ten years ahead and build tech into your services.
The Hubble Project also clearly highlighted some key messages for technology suppliers.
Remember you’re not really a technology company – you’re a partner in improving care.
As well as technical ability, you need good people skills in order to develop a clear understanding of the care services’ day-to-day activities, and what they are trying to achieve.
Connectivity is key. Care providers cannot afford to have stand alone systems that do speak to other systems.. If you don’t have multiple systems yourself, consider partnering with other suppliers to offer a connected package. Most care providers will prefer to work with one lead supplier.
Be open and flexible. Ensure the care provider understands all the prerequisites for and implications of installing your systems. So be clear about the need for good wifi, or the need to purchase additional software or devices in order to support your own systems.
Visit The Hubble Project on the Digital Social Care website: www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk/hubble