Opinion Technology

Digital ecosystems: improving health needs in care homes

Anita Astle MBE , Owner and Manager, Wren Hall Nursing Home

Anita Astle MBE , Owner and Manager, Wren Hall Nursing Home

In recent years, there has been an increasing adoption of digital technologies within the social care sector. These technologies have transformed the way care is provided, with a particular focus on improving patient wellbeing and enhancing the care experience. One such area where digital technologies have been implemented within care homes is through the use of digital ecosystems, which have enabled care teams to deliver more responsive care and track care needs and delivery. After conducting a recent study in this area, I’ll discuss below the role digital ecosystems have in proactively meeting and improving health needs in a care home environment.

Digital ecosystems within a care home refers to the integration of digital technologies that communicate with one another. For instance, an electronic medicine administration system and pain assessment apps, such as Painchek, can enter data into the same care planning system. The nurse call system can also monitor a resident’s behaviour and enter data into planning records. These technologies work together to provide a comprehensive view of a resident’s care needs and delivery.

One particular technology that has gained popularity in care homes is the SMART drinking cups –  intelligent drinking glasses that continuously monitor fluid intake, before summarising and providing relevant insights and notifications to carers, healthcare professionals and relatives. The benefit of this technology is that data is transferred to a digital system which can be accessed by any care provider on shift who can look at trends of fluid intake over recent days or weeks. It is particularly important to track whether a resident is suffering from, or likely to suffer from dehydration, as this can increase the risk of urinary tract infections, constipation, and kidney stones. Adequate hydration can also help to prevent falls, as it can prevent dizziness and weakness. As we age, our bodies lose some of its ability to retain water, and our sense of thirst may also decrease. By tracking fluid intake, care teams can act swiftly to address any issues that may arise before they worsen.

There are several benefits to digital ecosystems within a care home. Firstly, care teams can deliver more responsive care as they have access to real-time data on each individual in the home. This means that care plans can be updated as and when required, ensuring that residents receive the most appropriate and accurate care. Secondly, the data captured by digital technologies can be used to track care needs and delivery. This enables care teams to identify trends and patterns that may be common in the deterioration of residents and once there has been more than one occurrence of that sign, they can call on the intervention of registered nurses to record clinical observations. This could include blood pressure, pulse, temperature and oxygen saturation, from which they can provide appropriate medical assistance where necessary.

Furthermore, the data captured by digital technologies can be analysed by care teams and used as evidence by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) when an inspection comes about. The data can help determine if the care provided meets the five key lines of inquiry of being well-led, caring, responsive, effective, and a safe service. By providing evidence of the quality of care delivered through the use of digital technologies, care homes can demonstrate their commitment to providing high-quality care to their residents and are more likely to receive a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating.

The use of digital ecosystems has transformed the way care is delivered and interpreted. By integrating digital technologies that communicate and cooperate with one another, care teams can deliver more responsive care, track care needs and delivery, and improve patient outcomes. As digital technologies continue to evolve, it is likely that they will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of care within care homes as the sector continues to focus on improving patient wellbeing and enhancing the overall care experience.

Wren Hall is a specialist dementia care nursing home situated in the quiet Nottinghamshire village of Selston. Opened in 1989, Wren Hall is a modern, purpose-built building set in its own mature grounds. The home is divided into four areas that are specially adapted to the unique needs of family members with dementia so they can enjoy a sense of independence alongside mental and physical stimulation in a safe environment.

Kirsty

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