Technology has continued to be an important theme within home care this year. We round up 5 of the biggest trends that have been affecting the sector’s approach to technology in 2019, and look forward to what more we can expect in the new decade.
1. The paperless frontier
Digital transformation in the home care sector is not a new topic of conversation. But going digital has remained as one of the hot discussion topics of in 2019, as the inexorable march towards removing paper from home care organisations continues.
And while folders in people’s homes persist, we’ve seen the sector take great strides in digitising its processes this year.
What started out with simple timesheets and mileage claims, is gradually expanding to include using digital tools for medication administration, recording notes, managing outcomes, and much more. We’re seeing home care organisations become more sophisticated in their use of care management software, thanks to the efficiencies and business intelligence that they bring.
2. Business continuity – preparing for a paperless world
But are we prepared? As home care agencies increasingly depend on computer systems, rare but almost inevitable system outages throw into sharp relief the need for business continuity plans.
The widespread WannaCry hack which hit the NHS in 2017, locking health care staff out of important patient records and disrupting more than 19,000 medical appointments, was a timely reminder of the dangers that come with relying on technology, and the importance of both IT security and contingency planning.
And while software systems in care are in many ways more secure than paper-based ones, they do require a level of risk management that is perhaps new territory for many domiciliary care providers.
There is a responsibility of course on the part of the software provider to have monitoring systems and fail-safes in place to prevent outages, along with back-ups and recovery plans should the worst happen. But there’s also a need for users of care management systems to consider the impact within their own organisations when service is interrupted for some reason, and what needs to be done to mitigate the risks associated with it.
3. Adoption is easier than anticipated
With 25% of the UK home care workforce aged over 55, there is often a reticence amongst home care agencies to roll out new technologies, due to a perceived reluctance amongst older care workers to go digital. However, from our own our experience, adoption of technology amongst carers actually goes a lot smoother than anticipated.
We’ve found that by starting out slowly with a pilot, offering lots of training and having good communication and dialogue, many care workers are quick to adapt to new ways of working, particularly when it saves them time and effort. We’ve even had people say: “It is so user-friendly, even the managers in their late 60s find it easier to use!”
Software systems are becoming the norm in the home care sector, and we’ve supported lots of organisations in making the transition from paper to cloud this year.
4. The importance of the human touch
As technology becomes more prevalent within home care, one of the themes we’ve seen emerge this year is the importance of retaining a human connection. Technology should enable outstanding care, but not replace the humanity that is at the essence of caring.
The Care Quality Commission has made its position on technology in social care clear in 2019. Encouraging innovation is a strategic priority for the CQC, as it recognises the improvements in the quality of care that technology can drive. And it is determined that regulation does not stand in the way of digital developments. But it warns that technology and innovation must never come at the expense of high-quality, person-centred care. Technology should “enhance, rather than replace, human support”.
5. There’s knowledge in data
Finally, with the use of technology comes data. Big data. And with data comes intelligence. But what is it all telling us? And should we know? Much debate has raged around the role of data this year – about the need for a data-driven evidence base for social care, about its value in helping to deliver more person-centred care, as well as the challenges it presents for protecting the privacy of the individual.
With data set to continue to dominate the conversation in 2020, we expect to see home care organisations demanding greater intelligence from their care management systems.
One thing is certain, the more records and processes are digitised within home care organisations, the more data will be available. And that offers the potential for a whole new level of insight about the person being cared for – and much more person-centred care as a result.
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