A roundtable held by healthcare technology specialist, The Access Group, has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the care sector.
Care providers Fosse Healthcare and Marches Care, as well as pharmaceutical giant Boots, discussed their experiences and learnings from the last few months during the Access All Areas virtual conference.
Volt Sacco, managing director of Fosse Healthcare, explained that the pandemic brought together experienced care workers to offer central support to its service. He said: “Challenging times are always a good time to innovate because there is the extra incentive there. We developed a centralised care hub that operates around the clock and provided a safety net, especially when the pandemic was particularly difficult.
“This hub uses a group of highly experienced carers and coordinators to use the systems we already have in place to track carers’ activity, e-MAR and handle phone calls, for example. They have provided a supporting layer to the day to day running of our service and, due to their experience, can make decisions autonomously which takes pressure off the wider leadership team.
“One of the biggest changes we have seen is the use of the Care Planning mobile app from The Access Group. We developed this to capture details such as when clients were shielding, those that were symptomatic or confirmed as COVID-positive. This data was fed back to carers and overcame the huge logistical challenge of helping carers to understand the environment they were going into and helping them to prepare with the right PPE.
“We have also changed our training platform to be digital and plan to continue with this as it has been a more powerful medium than we initially thought.”
Carey Bloomer, managing director of Marches Care, agreed, adding that staff and residents are benefitting from the increased adoption of technology. She said: “We dramatically increased our use of video conferencing tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams. I used to spend three days a month going to London and I expect this to be reduced moving forward. For residents, particularly, we have seen huge benefits with social workers being able to quickly log in to be able to see the residents; a big improvement.
“This approach works for some and doesn’t work for others, but technology has helped to cut down on assessment time and residents with families that are abroad are using it more. People are happy to keep on using it – residents are really happy to use it.”
Lisa Rutherford, operations manager on the care services team at Boots, which supports the care sector with medication and e-MAR, had a similar outlook. She said: “The biggest change for my team is the use of virtual calls. We are managing e-MAR implementations with customers all over the country and previously big chunks of the week were spent in a car travelling around care homes.
“Even when completing activity at the peak of COVID, doing this work remotely via Teams or Zoom has revolutionised our way of working. Care providers understandably don’t want lots of external visitors at the moment as it’s still a very delicate situation, but they still want to progress with digital transformation.”