Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director of Tunstall Healthcare, discusses what healthcare professionals, social care leaders and local governments have learned about the benefits of technology enabled care (TEC) amid COVID-19
Alongside raising awareness of the crucial role played by health and social care services in society, the COVID-19 crisis has also impacted on the speed at which we are able to adopt new working practices and investment in TEC.
While initiatives such as remote health monitoring would have previously taken months to establish, we’ve seen systems like this become operational within a couple of weeks.
Assistive technology such as community alarms and telecare plays a crucial role in helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Even during COVID-19 users have been able to continue getting help in emergency situations, and the technology has played a proactive role in preventing and providing support during adverse events such as falls.
Remote health monitoring solutions have been empowering people with long term conditions to manage their health at home with support from local clinicians, while reducing the risk of cross infection. TEC has also been deployed in care homes to monitor the health of residents and identify COVID-19 symptoms at an early stage, and is being used to give support to people living with mental health conditions.
TEC has also been crucial in enabling proactive calling from clinicians and caregivers during the pandemic. This has not only allowed caregivers to signpost to other services for early intervention, but it has also helped to reduce loneliness, especially during lockdown due to the continued provision of human contact.
While we’ve seen healthcare professionals, social care leaders and local governments struggling to bear the immense pressure generated by the pandemic, it has resulted in an unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of technology, new models of care delivery and greater connectivity.
What have we learnt?
With the health and social care landscape changing rapidly during the pandemic, professionals in the industry have learnt that an integrated health and social care system is crucial if we are to develop a robust and scalable model while also safeguarding our services for the future.
Intelligent solutions which measure and evaluate data from multiple sources will create an informed and continuously evolving health and care system, and enable our services to provide support in adapting to new methods of care delivery in response to shifting health trends.
Leaders have found that even during a health crisis, when our services are connected, more insightful guidance can be offered and health and social care delivery can be transformed.
Healthcare professionals, social care leaders and local authorities must advocate for greater TEC integration through the adoption of data-driven, technological healthcare to generate personalised care and enable the growth of our services and long-term investment opportunities. Predictive and preventative measures of care must also be considered when assessing risks to improve and sustain desirable health outcomes.
The current and most common care models established pre-COVID were largely reactive to alert caregivers and providers when support is needed. These responsive systems manage the health and social care needs of vulnerable individuals, but more proactive and personalised care must become the standard.
Proactive services take the next step by enabling greater understanding of risks as well as monitoring current situations. Personalised assessments must be combined with advanced technologies to allow healthcare professionals, social care leaders and local authorities to offer the right levels of support where it is needed most.
Connecting health and social care services with local authorities through TEC will generate greater investment in more predictive care models where data can be studied from multiple sources. Over time this will develop a greater understanding of how healthcare guidance can be communicated, as well as adapting how health and social care is delivered.
Intelligent care models and services such as TEC and data driven insights will bring about fully coordinated, predictive and preventative care to improve and sustain better health outcomes for individuals and communities. We will also see greater support in the continued investment in health and social care, better provision of care to those who need it most and leaders working to safeguard our services against future crises.
TEC in action
Tunstall collaborated with Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group to help protect residents, staff and clinicians in care homes across Bolton during COVID-19 using TEC.
34 care homes in the area were provided with multi-user remote health monitoring solutions along with medical devices such as thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors to enable multiple patients to be supported by technology.
The Tunstall team also worked with staff in the homes to train them on the system and educate them on how to take vital signs observations.
The different systems have enabled closer monitoring of vulnerable care home residents, whilst reducing the need for clinical staff attendance and the risk of cross-infection. They can also help clinicians effectively prioritise residents’ care as the systems clearly identify those most in need of interventions.
The success of the programme will be measured over time, with metrics such as reduced ambulance call-outs being assessed, as well as resident outcomes and the impact on caseload management.
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