How technological advances can modernise communications, reduce costs and improve patient care in care homes
Whether you are running a ten-bedroom care home or multiple sites across the country, technology and communication plays a vital role in providing the high levels of care needed for residents.
Typically, the majority of care homes rely on a multitude of different systems and devices to support the day to day. Things like pull cord system systems for emergency response, buzz entry systems for main access doors and telephone systems for managing calls from carers or suppliers etc.
There are different setups, systems and pieces of software for managing everything individually. However, as technology has moved on there is now no longer any need to have all of these standalone systems that are costly and difficult to manage and maintain. A care home can join all of this together and have one system that does it all. That also allows for reporting, tracking and increased accountability.
So what does this actually mean for you managing a care or nursing home? How will new technology help with your current challenges? What new systems are available and what are the potential benefits for you?
If you currently have lots of systems all doing different things, the main drawback is that each system is just doing one thing for you, there is no integration.
For instance, a resident may pull the help cord if they fall over in the shower and this sends an alert to the nurse’s station or a pager, but often that is all it will do – that event, the time of it, if anyone responded to it, if the alert was cancelled, none of that information is recorded or stored anywhere.
Similarly, if a push-button alarm or a proximity sensor for a dementia patient is triggered, how are you keeping track of events like that; the frequency of it, times of day, response times etc? All of your systems are doing a single job to its minimum capacity.
The worse case ramifications of using these systems are the threat of emergency calls being left unanswered. And from a management point of view, you don’t have a robust way of tracking resident incidents to look for patterns that might help the person, or for tracking response times to ensure you are providing a great level of care.
This is on top of duplication of equipment and devices, as well as high annual maintenance costs.
Introducing a centralised approach
If you can get all your different systems talking to each other, you can then address these challenges as well introduce lots of other more efficient ways of working.
The good news is that you don’t need to rip out and replace what you already have. Instead, you could introduce some software to work on your current phone system. This would allow all your phone line based activity to be controlled and managed centrally.
What does that mean?
If you have a tablet, something like an iPad, you can link all your individual alarm type systems to it via some software.
You would visually see whats going on in your care home and have the ability to report on it as all the data would be stored. If a resident triggered an alarm, it would flash up on the tablet device. The person attending the call would accept the alarm and close the call when the situation was resolved.
You would also be able to report on which resident the alarm came from, at what time, in which location, who responded, response time and resolution time. This type of data is invaluable for both resident care and future resident attraction.
The tablet could also be used for making and receiving phone calls, keeping a log of dispensed medications and even viewing video via main door entry systems. It would also replace the need for carers to carry around mobiles, cordless phones, pages etc.
Here are some of the wider benefits:
Calls are always answered
Using modern software alongside your current warden call and phone systems, you can have a carer routing system set up. If an alarm call is made or triggered, the system will send the call to the first carer in the routing queue, if that person is busy, the call won’t go unanswered, it will route to the next carer in the queue, and so on and so on until someone accepts the call. This safeguards the resident and you by guaranteeing a quick response.
You can even set up rules on the system, things like if an alarm call is made between certain hours it goes to a specific person or group first. You can also view other phone line based system information on the tablet, such as fire alarms or power failures. At the same time with caller ID you can see exactly what flat, apartment or room is calling, and there is even the possibility to link this to other resident information such as medication.
The software has built-in call recording and call detail records so you can also introduce greater accountability and an audit trail for every incident/event.
Every voice call will be recorded and stored in an easily searchable format. Call recordings can be particularly valuable to prove what was said and when, after an event, as well as being used for internal training purposes.
From a billing perspective too, by having access to all call detail records it is easy to provide itemised billing to individual residents for their own personal phone use. The system would also allow you to integrate individual phone call billing with your accounts system too, to make monthly invoicing easier.
Reduced costs and maintenance
Having a specific system to manage everything help you accurately track what is going on in your care home. This will help you manage costs and will also will vastly reduce your investment in equipment and annual maintenance costs by consolidating everything.
Also, using non-BT phone lines with this software will vastly reduce your monthly line rental costs. You can, of course, multiply these on-going savings by the number of sites you have.
The physical cabling around your premises will be reduced as everything will work on one network and you can also be more sustainable with lower copper content throughout your building.
Your tablets can all connect via a wi-fi network and that can also supply internet access for residents and visitors and even enable tracking services to notify a nurse or carer that a vulnerable patient has left the building unaccompanied.
Connecting with the future
The above are just some of the benefits that you can get by updating your current systems, but the real beauty of adopting an integrated system like this is that you have complete flexibility for the future.
If you are looking to grow, improve resident care, improve efficiencies and reduce costs, then putting a fully integrated system at the heart of your operation is paramount.