Why the future of integrated home care must be digital

At the heart of a global pandemic, care professionals need support more than ever before. “Coronavirus is the greatest public health crisis of our century and older adults are the most vulnerable to it. It is our duty to help, now” said ‍Max Parmentier, CEO and Founder of Birdie.

Social care is one of the few sectors with little digital presence in day-to-day operations. In domiciliary care, notes are often completed by hand, filed and stored in cabinets and reviewed manually by a single person, periodically. This process often leads to slower communication, difficulties in diagnosis and increased costs. Plus, as the sector is built from thousands of small businesses and providers of variable size, the challenge lies in rolling out a system that works for everyone and is easily accessible and adoptable.

Now, during the biggest global health crisis of this generation, being connected digitally and enabling remote working has never been a more pressing issue. “The effect [of COVID-19]on the digital health sector is unprecedented, with a marked acceleration in the adoption of technology across the NHS” Gunatilleke, J (2020). And, in  social care, the same step change towards digital could radically improve the way care is provided. Technology that allows for person-centred care, like apps that hold patient information and remove the need for large paper care plans, offer the ability to monitor health remotely, assist with diagnosing ultimately, improve the outcomes and independence for older adults. Digitisation also creates a quick solution for outcome based commissioning, allowing care providers to act faster and allocate resources more effectively. 

Birdie has been building and rolling out a number of solutions that, since the COVID-19 crisis, have helped to highlight the benefits of digital technology in home care.

Facilitating remote, and socially distanced working

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the need to work remotely has never been more important. Using paper systems in home care offices means that it’s difficult to do this, and things like auditing, that require manual collection, only further exacerbate the problem. By adopting a digital care management system, things like spot checks and auditing can be done anywhere. 

Tools to help monitor, aggregate and assess needs

COVID-19 highlighted some key areas that would be radically improved by digital monitoring.

By providing visual tools like RAG statuses, symptom tracking and wellbeing monitoring, care providers can quickly see their at-risk clients and make changes to their care accordingly - especially important during a global pandemic. Through making this information visible and flagging concerns via digital platforms, the health and wellbeing of many older adults can be preserved for longer, as issues can be addressed far earlier than using paper systems which may not be collected for long periods of time. 

This allows managers to allocate visits or care priority based on need, in case of an emergency (like an outbreak of COVID-19, or a dramatic shortage of staff).

These digital solutions can help care teams identify risks and symptoms of disease in real-time and to help prioritise care for those who are most vulnerable.

Integrating with the NHS

Another outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak has been an increase in the sharing of information between care providers and the NHS. There has traditionally been a disconnect between NHS services and independent care providers, but since the COVID-19 crisis, and due in part to the adoption of NHS mail by many more care providers secure information sharing has been accelerated. 

Techforce 19, an NHSX project, recently called on all innovators who can support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during COVID-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solution. Birdie was one solution that was chosen, and their solution aims to enable domiciliary care providers to better support older adults by detecting COVID-19 symptoms earlier and triaging cases faster. The Birdie COVID-19 symptom tracker is integrated with the NHS111 online symptom checker, and will give carers and care managers online medical guidance in real-time.

Removing the need for paper notes, which may not be collected in time to spot early symptoms, carers can instead log symptoms in real-time during their visit, with the information being automatically relayed to their office teams. The information gathered via the tracker also provides a wealth of information about the development of COVID-19 symptoms to the NHS, giving them more information about vulnerable older adults during the crisis - helping them to build better solutions for fighting the pandemic. 

This digital solution provides domiciliary care agencies with the information they need to make decisions and refer patients to the appropriate clinical services or remote clinical monitoring services. The integration of identifying clinical symptoms is just the start. This initial trial by Birdie will provide a good foundation to identify, develop and deploy sustainable technology-enabled  clinical remote monitoring and testing pathways - and will ultimately change the way that people receive care.

Birdie is just one business, alongside many others, that is rolling out new solutions for digital care provision; “With NHS resources and clinician’s focus diverted to COVID-19 related patients, medical emergencies and people with acute illnesses, those with chronic conditions will have been provided with information, alternate support and signposted to (including by peers with their condition) to apps and technology solutions. This crisis has highlighted the importance of cooperation and the collective power of groups.” Gunatilleke, J (2020). 

In home care, this doesn’t just mean going digital, it means opening the door to an interconnected network within health and social care, and building a technology-enabled platform that will ultimately reshape the way we provide, and experience care in our own homes. 

Find out more about Birdie, here and about Techforce 19 here.

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