Aged care facilities can utilise emerging hardware and software to drive improved business and care outcomes, but this requires investment in infrastructure, writes Paul Craven.
Aged care residents are gaining more control over their own care and experience through the increased use of technology.
Instead of pressing a single button to summon a carer, regardless of whether they require urgent medical attention or simply a cup of tea, residents can now use smart devices to communicate their specific needs.
This may include the use of menu options via a smart device.
The care team receives the message and the closest and/or most appropriate person can respond, which can lead to more timely responses and improve team productivity.
As well as enabling residents to communicate more effectively with care staff, as well as family and friends, smart devices also facilitate greater access to entertainment options.
Technology also delivers convenience for aged care providers. By giving staff access to the people, equipment and information they need when they need it, organisations can save time, reduce employee angst and improve satisfaction and morale, which results in a more positive resident experience.
Furthermore, when technology automates basic tasks, carers are freed up to engage more with residents.
However, putting residents in more control of their own care via technology requires a lot of infrastructure to facilitate.
To enable a true resident-centric experience, aged care providers need to provide staff with a mobile device that uses healthcare mobile apps and handsets designed for aged care, and have the Wi-Fi infrastructure and software to make sure these all work together.
Role of software
But as well as hardware and ICT infrastructure, software will also increasingly play a key role in modernising aged care workflows.
Take a simple example like nurse call. In addition to the traditional button on the wall or bed, nurse call could be a menu item on a smartphone, tablet or resident entertainment system application.
This becomes powerful when it is integrated with resident monitoring, which can alert nurses and physicians to take specific action from a particular data output – for example, testing blood sugar levels.
Add to this location services for aged care professionals and asset tagging for equipment, and staff can easily know who is closest to the resident to assist and where the nearest required piece of equipment is located.
Migrating from paper-based processes to automation technology in a high-pressure environment like aged care can be overwhelming. Aged care organisations looking to take the leap to digital should do so incrementally, starting simply to create a technological ecosystem that can grow over time as things evolve.
The focus should be on key priorities such as:
- how to keep residents and staff safe and secure
- how to effectively know what condition residents are in
- how to decide who should do what, and when
- how to communicate relevant information quickly to all necessary parties, and
- how to keep track of everything that needs to be done; who did each duty and when they did it.
By keeping those priorities paramount, it should be easy to decide what additional technology to adopt, such as wireless, integrated communications platforms, location services, alerting and alarming services, tagged equipment, and smart portable and mobile devices.
Paul Craven is health practice lead at Wavelink.