Where are you on your digital journey? Highlights from the Care Home of the Future webinar – Part I

PainChek has partnered with Person Centred Software, ATLAS eMAR and Ascom in the UK to launch the ‘Care Home of the Future’ — an initiative that helps the care home sector move towards a stronger post-COVID future.

As part of this campaign, we recently hosted the webinar ‘Where are you on your digital journey?’, which featured a panel of care home experts including Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum; Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England; and Ernie Graham, Owner of Graham Care.

During the session, our panellists shared the benefits of putting technology at the heart of care, and explored the stages that existing providers need to take to truly become a care home of the future. We’ve condensed some of the key insights from the hour-long discussion into an abridged version below.

Note: the content of the webinar has been edited for readability purposes. If you’d prefer to watch the webinar in its entirety, register here to access the full video.

Drew Hunt, Marketing Officer for PainChek (DH): Thank you everyone for taking the time out of your day today to join us for the first care home of the future webinar. We’ve got some great guests joining us today as we discuss the journey towards the care home of the future, including what that might look like and where everyone is currently placed on that map.

The question for all of us today is: what is a care home going to look like in the future? This is a tricky one because we don’t have that ability to truly understand exactly what developments will come in the next few years. But we have identified three steps, which will be some common ground for those who are really striving for the future of a digital model of care.

The first thing is digitising care, then joining up care — and finally, transforming care.

The first step we are going to talk about today is digitising care. This is a really important step to get right. Without getting this step right, you’re going to make your lives a lot more challenging to progress through the other steps to work towards that future digital care model.

The next step is joining up care. At this stage, we’re starting to look less about removing paperwork and more about what we can do with this digital technology and what information we can get out of it. So this could come in the form of some level of integration between the products say, for example, between a medication management system and a care planning system. This allows you to get more of a holistic approach of what’s going on.

Finally, there’s transforming care. This allows us to collect data from all these different elements of provision of care and bring it together almost in a data warehouse, to the point where we can analyse this information and create predictive analytics. By looking at trends over time from what’s going on in the home, we’re now starting to get an idea of what might happen next — for example, in terms of medication changes and what that might mean for a resident.

DH: Let’s start with the first question we all have here. Why should care providers move to digitisation?

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum (VR): I think this is such an important discussion to be having at this period in time. And I think I’m going to keep my answers in the context of where we are at this moment, in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Many providers had a range of digital, data-driven systems brought in as a result of the pandemic, from a capacity tracker to secure email systems and video conferencing and other areas of digitization, and they have had to do it at speed and pace.

What this has probably done for many care providers is move them from a position where they're thinking, “Should I digitise? Should I be doing some of these things? Should I be making the investment should I be making the leap?” to one where many have already had to take some of those first steps during this pandemic.

At the same time, what’s been really helpful is some of the barriers to adoption have been removed, including barriers around information governance and understanding, which has enabled people to move into a position of digitization. I hope a lot of those organisations — who almost come to this place by default — are feeling some of the benefits of that.

Regarding the overarching question of why organisations need to move to digitization, the truth is we really are in a position where there aren't other alternatives.

So much of our lives as individuals are driven by digital interfaces, so it seems very strange to have such a large part of the economy that isn’t underpinned by a digital agenda.

One of those benefits of being digitised is that you can communicate much more quickly and effectively with stakeholders such as your local health practitioners, your commissioner and other allied professionals that you work with. That also means communicating with those people who are connected with your organisation, whether it be your workforce, relatives, or residents.

Ultimately, the prize of digitising healthcare is unlocking all that data and information that people have about the fantastic care they offer, about the things that work, about the lessons they’ve learned, and about the people that they look after. Right now, all of that is being locked away in filing cabinets and not being looked at unless there’s a problem or an issue.

What digital enables people to do is to bring those lessons learned to life — to share that information and show exactly the impact and the fantastic changes that they're able to make in the delivery of the care that they offer.

Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England (MG): I absolutely agree with all the things that have been said. And I think that the sector needs to embrace this from the perspective of the outcomes and the efficiencies that digital technology can deliver. But also, more importantly, I think because of the outcomes that it can deliver for the people we support and their families, there are many benefits to data.

Ernie Graham, Owner of Graham Care (EG): I think the benefit ultimately is to be able to provide much more personalised outcomes for most of us. As we started off on the digital journey, many of us thought about how we can be compliant and looked at things from the point of view of a provider — in essence, being able to be assured as to what we’re actually providing.

I think as we move to that transformational stage, we can be getting to know much more about individuals than we have ever been able to before. This allows us to make sure that we’re delivering against their particular care plan rather than the general agenda for the particular unit that they might be living in.

DH: Absolutely. Can you see regulatory policy change mandating digitization, for example, standardising assessments and care planning?

MG: I think that the regulator has a role to lead this agenda. The COVID-19 crisis has really accelerated both the use of digital and also, it’s really shown the benefits of digital. And I don’t think we’ll ever be in a position where we go back to where we were.

Now I think one of the things the regulator needs to do is join up the dots around how we can use digital approaches and the data in a way that not only informs our own organisations, but also sector planning and development. Regulators should do some kind of audit of where we are in digital, identify where the gaps are — and some of those gaps will be about people’s capacity to invest. There might also be a useful conversation for the regulator to have with government about a digital fund, so providers can have the infrastructure available to make sure that they can get the best use of digital.

Also, I really want the regulator to fuel this agenda with the infrastructure to support the needs of the sector. So that when we can embrace digital, not only have we got the capacity to do it, but the systems that we’re using are compatible and talk to one another, and the data transfer process is slick and easy. It needs to be easy to use and it’s easy to input data.

Finally, we need a new approach on regulation and how we use data technology, and how we make sure that we connect not only with delivering better outcomes for the people we support, but also keep people connected with families and loved ones. I think there are so many things where the regulator could be really at the forefront of leading this agenda.

DH: I think what we have learned from this pandemic is that being agile and able to pivot the way that we work to adapt to situations is really crucial. And I think that the accessibility of data and the ability to see how our organisation is being impacted by certain circumstances is a really important part of that.

Continue to Part II of our webinar highlights here

Thank you again to Martin, Vic, and Ernie for sharing their insights with us. Building on this webinar, we will be hosting a follow-up session on 29th July at 1:15PM BST, where Claire Sutton (Digital Transformation Lead, Digital Social Care), Daniel Casson (Digital Development Executive, Care England) and Anita Astle MBE (Owner, Wrenhall) explore the benefits and risks when it comes to digital transformation in care.