Can technology hold the key for Care Home reform?

Mark McCarthy
Supply chain

From the global pandemic and Brexit to inflation and staff shortages, UK care homes have faced no shortage of challenges. Could technology hold the key to transforming the delivery of resident care?

Care homes across the UK have faced no shortage of challenges over the last couple of years. From the global pandemic and the impact of Brexit to funding cuts, staff shortages inflation and rising costs of food of late, it has not been easy for care providers trying to make ends meet. Interestingly, many of the obstacles care homes face today have been further exacerbated by lack of time and outdated processes, all culminating in key aspects of care being sidelined.

Time drains for staff

Specifically, in a recent independent survey of UK care homes, 40% of care home workers felt they couldn’t provide the quality of care that they would like to due to the time they spend on admin. Over half (52%) also agreed that care home inspections simply add further pressure to their role and would welcome a way to improve this process. More than a third of care home managers said that keeping up with time intensive processes like day-to-day menu planning, allergens management, and recording resident data around nutrition and hydration, worries them.

Productivity being paralysed

Yet process is the biggest controllable cause of lack of time ,- and you are only as strong as your weakest process. If staff are consistently burdened with admin-intensive duties, delivery of resident care is bound to suffer as a result, because there are simply not enough hours in the day. Take resident care plans as an example, some of these are hundreds of pages long, they are detailed for good reason and hugely important. But these vast paper-based records are difficult to access, update and review. These kinds of reactive problems are also paralysing productivity in care homes and, consequently, staff are spending more time firefighting admin rather than spending more time on the things that matter most. It’s no wonder that staff happiness and morale is suffering. Is it a coincidence that there are more than 100,000 vacancies across social care right now?

Could tech hold the key to change?

A recent care industry webinar hosted by Zupa uncovered the results of a new study surveying care workers across the UK and posed the following questions: can the right technology support care home staff with time intensive duties, thereby freeing up more of their time? If so, might technology hold the key to transforming staff morale as well as the delivery of resident care? The truth is, in many cases, that the adoption of automated technology could help alleviate many of these day-to-day pressures. A and, for those care professionals who said they would prioritise new technology to improve processes, most agreed that staff happiness, productivity of staff and quality of care are being side- lined.

Blockers and Barriers

The challenges are compounded due to blockers and potential knowledge gaps to implementing new technology in care homes. The same study also revealed a 50/50 split within the sector, with many believing technology is too expensive. Cost seems to be the most common misconception to the adoption of new tech, despite the fact that many solutions today are cloud-based and operate on a ‘pay as you grow’ model with no upfront expenditure. Cost is not the only hurdle though. Culture plays a role here too, with many care providers feeling that making changes within their team is tricky. Rather, they feel safer sticking with the processes they have always used, even though 86% say that the quality of care delivered is affected by longwinded processes and outdated systems.

So, what is the answer?

Care homes are challenging and emotional places to work and the Government should look to increase funding for care homes to ensure that care workers are better paid in order to improve retention and attract new talent. The sector needs support in modernising and embracing technology to free up more time for over- stretched care workers. Workers and residents of the future will have already grown up with and embraced technology and tech could be the solution to staff costs. The Government must also do more to help retain staff and ease recruitment shortages – not only with greater investment – but also by re-classifying and recognising social care as a skilled job. After all, caring for the vulnerable is time-consuming, demanding, and requires specialist skills and knowledge.

It is time to work smarter, not harder in care homes. To find out more – why not listen to the full webinar here.