How technology will impact and enhance the care industry

Despite care homes previously being notoriously behind the times when it came to the topic of technology, the sector is slowly catching up and this standardisation could no longer be further from the truth.

The role that technology plays within care homes has become increasingly prevalent over recent years; with many care homes adopting solutions such as cloud software, smart home capabilities and AI technology. This technology enables both residents and employees to enjoy the associated benefits.

Having said that, for as many care homes that are welcoming this new technology, there are just as many that shy away from it. Shockingly, only one in five care homes have WiFi, and even those who do, can often have dead spots, and no reserved bandwidth for essential services.

Care homes across the country need to stop being wary of the introduction of new technology and start implementing it so they can feel the associated benefits. In the article Blueleaf discuss the most recent up and coming technology trends and how they are being implemented within the care industry.

Artificial intelligence

There are aspects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that have been introduced into care homes across the UK, allowing for the monitoring of patients to predict the need for early intervention. This particular technology will allow for an extended ecosystem; making the delivery of 24/7 care a possibility.

AI-based tools allow the tracking of habitual behaviour in residents, can spot changes in real time and provide a platform for the end to end digitisation of healthcare. These innovations are transforming the way in which care is delivered and improving the quality and personal aspect of care, which in turn will alleviate the pressure on carers and families alike.

Pending AI tech from forward thinking businesses like Novacare, aim to provide support to employees that will speed up processes and deliver insightful information to managers. Solution software companies are developing care-related technology which will utilise AI, wearable technology, and big data analytics, helping to reduce the need for admin related tasks.

Stephen Wilson, Director of Novacare, said, “There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence and robotics are going to shape the future of care. In fact, by 2023 it’ll be technology that’s commonly used throughout the sector in the UK. However, these developments might not be in the way most people think of. Often, when AI and robots are mentioned in relation to care, people picture robots as the primary carer, with the human side of the profession falling to the wayside but this isn’t the case.

“Every way the technology is developing suggests that the opposite will be true. At the moment, care employees face a huge amount of paperwork and routine tasks that eat into their time. AI and robotics aim to relieve some of this strain. Rather than taking time away from care home residents, when used correctly, AI and robotics will allow carers to better focus on peoples’ needs, including social and emotional needs that are often overlooked in the current system.”

Smart home technology integration

While smart devices increased in popularity across domestic homes in the early 2000s, it wasn’t until more recent years that they were introduced into UK care homes. Home hubs are at the core of smart technology and act as the main control for managing everything from lighting, to thermostats, and playing residents’ favourite songs.

The term “smart lighting” encompasses various forms of lighting – from nightlights found in residents’ rooms, to large-scale lighting solutions. The biggest benefit from dynamic lighting was enjoyed by dementia residents, with regular rest helping them to feel less agitated. Lighting can affect patient’s body clock as the different colours of light have varied wavelengths that the human body responds to in different ways, but certain lighting methods can be used to regulate patient’s body clock.

The cool blue light of the morning kick starts our body clock by promoting a state of alertness, preparing us for the day, whilst warm yellow colours (representative of dusk), make a person feel sleepy.  The hormone melatonin, which the brain releases towards the end of the day is the science behind this, as the release of it causes us to feel drowsy. A cool blue light in a care home dining room at the end of the day is not conducive to a relaxed and restful evening for residents as white and blue based lights will inhibit the secretion of melatonin, interrupting our body clock and upsetting our usual sleep pattern. 

Software solutions

Software solutions have allowed for digitisation of records including care plans, residents’ medical records, and staff employment and management records. This has led to the optimisation of operational and administrative processes in UK care homes. Systems such as eMar have played a large role in reducing the pressure on staff within care homes by providing a faster and more efficient way of recording resident information .

Whilst eMar manages medication administration processes, there are several types of software solutions that care homes can invest in which will speed up administrative tasks such as day-to-day care planning, budgeting, staff rostering and supply chain management; allowing for a more efficient business model and enhanced care for patients.

By adopting relevant software solutions, in addition to providing an enhanced quality of care to clients, efficiency and productivity will be improved. Many care establishments are recognising the benefits of cloud-based solutions and are performing more effectively as a result.

Future predictions 

While in recent years, the care sector has upped its game in the implementation of technology; there is still a way to go.

Robotics, AI and machine learning technology are expected to play a large role in enhancing and transforming care homes in the future. As previously stated, technology is expected to benefit not just patients by combating severe issues such as loneliness, but care professionals as well. Assisting with daily core tasks, reducing workloads and broadening health care functions will allow carers to devote more time to residents to provide compassionate care. 

Robots are in the very early stages of being introduced in care homes across the world, in an attempt to combat loneliness. However, it’s the future possibilities that are especially exciting. Research has shown that loneliness is just as detrimental to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This epidemic is predominant in the elderly, with over one million UK citizens over the age of 75 not speaking to anyone in over a month.

While living in a care home can help to reduce feelings of complete isolation, loneliness increases mortality rates by 26%. It’s predicted that in the future, robots will combat this, by offering companionship.

Issac Theophilos, author of How to Get Outstanding: An Ultimate Guide for Care Homes commented on the prediction of adopting robotics and other technological advancements within the care industry: “The ability of the machines to learn is multiple times better than humans. The power of machine learning can be used to provide voice support to help people with simple tasks such as calling for help, turning off the lights, adjusting the room temperature, and so on.

“I assume a lot of management or operational roles would be made redundant if technology uses its full potential in the years to come. While several hotels have experimented using robots serving their customers, I am still waiting for that moment when a robot knocks on the door of a resident’s room to offer a cup of tea”.

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