April 15, 2020
With the care sector playing a vital role in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and supporting the most vulnerable in society, many providers are exploring innovative methods to ensure they can continue to deliver an outstanding level of care while operating with the highest levels of safety.
Here, Steve Sawyer, Managing Director of Access Health & Social Care explains how technology can assist in reducing transmission of the virus.
While the outbreak of COVID-19 has placed increased strain on an already stretched care sector, there is little doubt that the industry is doing all that it can, including utilising technology, to rise to the challenge. Making sure the sector continues to function is critical to the wellbeing of not only those individuals they directly support but also the family and friends who rely on the care provided to their loved ones.
Having a strategy in place to monitor and reduce the spread of infection, both for residential and domiciliary care providers, as well as to maintain communication with families and loved ones, is critical to ensure the continued safety of staff and those receiving care. Technology that many care providers already use has a vital role to play in this strategy.
Reacting to a potential case of infection
By now, everyone in your organisation should have a strong understanding of the symptoms of COVID-19, which include a high temperature and a new, continuous cough. Given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, it can be easy for any potential cases to trigger panic. Responding calmly and acting in accordance with NHS and Public Health England guidelines will ensure the best possible outcome to the situation.
Once someone is identified as having a potential case of COVID-19, if a resident has a fever for example, and is put into isolation, it is vital that care workers can rapidly communicate this with other members of staff.
If you are using a centralised care planning system, this will enable you to instantly communicate this across all staff, and is one way of ensuring that procedures are followed effectively and that staff and other residents are safe.
To help care providers get as much control as possible over this outbreak, some software providers, including Access, have also implemented new functionality, or repurposed existing features, for improved reporting and identification of known and suspected cases or to help identify symptoms early and ensure necessary follow-up actions are taken.
Change working practices
For providers offering home care, increasing ‘continuity of care’, meaning reducing the number of different care workers that see each client, can help reduce the chances of infection – and of any infection subsequently spreading.
Using people management software can help with quickly and easily looking at schedules and rosters to see where these could be adjusted to increase continuity of care. For example, you may want to group care workers into teams, each responsible for delivering care to a set selection of clients, limiting exposure and maintaining control.
This can also help clients to cope with the stress and concern that COVID-19 and social isolation could bring, by limiting the number of unfamiliar faces they see. Working in small teams can also increase the likelihood of identifying any developing symptoms by creating familiarity with those receiving care and sharing information with the other members of their team.
With technology care providers can utilise contact tracing to monitor suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as identifying which care workers have been in contact with that individual and, in turn, who those care workers have been in contact with since.
This enables care providers to take action to reduce the threat of a wider spread across their organisation, including instigating self-isolation, checking on the condition of those who may have been exposed or exercising further precautions when delivering services.
Keeping family updated
Social distancing is undoubtedly taking a huge emotional toll on the loved ones of those receiving care. Many are worried about vulnerable family members who might already suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness, which will now be compounded by their enforced seclusion.
During this time, many people with older relatives or family with disabilities will be prevented from seeing them in person, an essential requirement to limit the spread of COVID-19. One method many care providers are implementing to assist during this challenging period is to offer family members regular or real-time updates into the care their loved ones are receiving.
This ‘next of kin functionality’ enables family members to view updates immediately after a care visit or interaction. This type of information ranges from daily notes, activities and mood, all the way through to incident reports and hospitalisation notifications.
Not only does this help to bridge the gap between a family member and supported person, relieving anxiety, it has the added benefit of helping to reduce the temptation to break social distancing rules to check on the health of a vulnerable relative.
In the current crisis people will understandably be even more anxious for information regarding their loved one’s health and the care they are receiving. Making this readily available brings peace of mind to the family and allows the care provider to focus their time on the delivery of those crucially-needed frontline services.