Stuart Solomons, founder of Ernie Connects says the number of COVID-19 deaths in care homes could have been significantly reduced through the successful implementation of technology.
The numbers released by CQC show that more than 39,000 care home residents died with the virus, with the highest number of deaths in a single care home at 44, while 21 homes had more than 30 COVID-related deaths.
However, such an increased mortality rate could have been prevented if fully integrated technology, with transparent cutting-edge digital care plans accessible to family and friends, medical surrogates and other clinicians, were utilised by care providers across the country.
Professor Stuart Solomons, founder of Ernie Connects, contacted 28 Government departments at the beginning of the epidemic offering them the Ernie software for free as it was clinically proven to save lives.
Ernie Connects is the only fully integrated resident-centred care system in the UK, with combined best-of-breed technology from the United States and the UK creating the country’s first fully integrated platform.
Studies from the USA show that when a video communications system is provided for residents, their families and friends, 24 hours a day, it drives quality care through connection and subsequently increases occupancy rates from the low-mid 80s to the high-mid 90s.
This is where digital care technology could have been utilised as an invaluable tool to ease the growing pressures in care facilities. Integrated platforms should have the continuous ability to remotely measure all of a resident’s vital signs, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and temperature. Currently, there are limited care home systems available that allow residents to have any time video consultations with doctors and nurses.
The mainstream media narrative around COVID-related deaths in care homes became one of cruel bureaucrats, politicians and managers callously abandoning care home residents from preventable deaths, and knowingly sacrificing residents to ‘protect’ acute hospital beds.
An article in The New York Times suggested that many coronavirus deaths in American care homes could have been prevented had their government stepped in and ensured that social care facilities had the same level of support as hospitals.
Such was an outcome that Ernie Connects saw from afar and decided to act upon in the UK. Unfortunately, despite reaching out to 28 Government departments and offering Ernie software for free, nobody decided to come back.
This is despite findings from pre-and-post satisfaction studies in the United States amongst carers and care home staff showing a measurable increase in staff retention and efficiency, as well as much lower agency staff usage.
It’s axiomatic that the ability of the carer to relate on a visual and personal basis with the resident’s family and friends encourages social ‘stickiness’. It is a sociological phenomenon that the better you get to know the relatives of the resident, the greater the rapport and a higher standard of care.
Fully transparent leading-edge digital care plans can be accessed by all parties to recommend improvements, provide audibility and assist in the management and care of the resident.
Of course, this pandemic is still far from over. In the UK, reports state that we’re still seeing new COVID-19 cases surge with over 20,000 new cases daily, while deaths remain at about 89 a day. Also, the rapid spread of new variants, in particular the B117 variant, demonstrates that the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.
It becomes clear, then, that if we, as a sector, are serious about reducing the rate of further mortality, while simultaneously striving to promote healthier, happier lives for residents, then we must look towards championing human connection through smart technology.
Stuart Solomons is the founder of Ernie Connects. He is a former professor and a member of the American Telemedicine Association and also a member of the Health Information Management Systems and Society (HIMSS).