COVID-19 has seen businesses accelerate the digitisation of their IT infrastructure to ensure business continuity whether their staff are working from the office or at home. The same process is now being utilised for care homes as they have seen the value of digitisation for their residents, their families and staff.
The digitalisation in care homes is not about the cost savings. It’s more about freeing up the time and resources of staff and nurses for them to spend more time with the residents. This also has benefits when it comes to Care Quality Commission (CQC) audits. Digitalisation means they can automate time-consuming audit trails and securely store resident data instead of using a room full of filing cabinets.
Where to begin with digitalising a care home?
The first step is communication - phone, unified communications apps, internet connectivity and networking – to build the infrastructure to support care home-specific cloud platforms.
- Telephone system
Moving to a new cloud-hosted telephone system provides a solution that can connect multiple sites, record calls for a CQC audit, offers free calls to UK landlines and mobiles, and an automated attendant system that directs calls to the correct member of staff while informing callers of important information or upcoming events while they are on hold.
- Unified communications
By installing a unified communications solution such as Microsoft Teams, Collaborate from Gamma or Rainbow from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, staff can communicate across multiple devices wherever they are working using instant messaging, video calls and screen sharing.
- Internet connectivity
Robust internet connections can reliably support multiple devices being used at the same time. An internet connection designed for residential use will not be able to support the needs of a care home with multiple residents. Where you may often hear of people blaming the Wi-Fi for a poor connection, it is often the internet connectivity the Wi-Fi is trying to give you access to that is under-powered and over-stretched. Add on access to cloud services and an internet connection will often be found wanting.
- Wi-Fi access
In some care homes, Wi-Fi was only available in communal areas, but by installing access points across the entire building, residents can stay connected with loved ones via wireless phone handsets or video apps. Just like any technology, a Wi-Fi network needs to be upgraded every five years to ensure it provides the best performance for modern devices and is secure. Then it can be used to support new technologies, such as electronic care planning or medication management software. Staff can use tablet devices as they do their checks on the residents.
- Alarm systems
The residents’ safety is key within any care home. In some homes, residents who are mobile can move freely around the building while wearing a sensor and are monitored through CCTV. By digitalising the CCTV system and connecting it to the home’s internet connection, high definition cameras can track residents and staff with footage being recorded and stored in the cloud and for retrieval a later date.
Here are our suggestions for the best way to start digitalising your care home:
- Get ideas from staff, residents and their families on what they think is missing or needs improving.
- Ensure you focus on requirements that you most need for the home, rather than ones that are nice to have but not necessary now.
- Identify the technology, software and platforms to support staff and residents and which systems you already have that can be adapted.
- Acknowledge that digitalisation is a big shift for the care home and that it is essential to give staff time to learn about the new systems.
If you would like advice on any of the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.