Innovative technology has the potential to help home care agencies meet the demand for care.
In 1938, R. Buckminster Fuller coined Ephemeralization as the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing.”
Ephemeralization would mean an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output while at the same time requiring less input.
With the gap between soaring demand for home care and workforce capacity to supply it continuing to grow, technology must do more to increase home care providers’ capacity to deliver care with fewer people available to provide it.
Home care provision needs, at least to the extent where supply can meet demand, to embrace Fuller’s Ephemeralization.
In 2022, avoiding failure to deliver quality care is almost entirely dependent on home care providers achieving optimal operational efficiency and workforce productivity.
With demand for home care outstripping supply, the role of technology has never been more important.
Increasing Demand for Home Care
Many vulnerable people rely on home care providers to live independently and with dignity, for some, they depend on home care provision to survive.
For over 2 million vulnerable people in the UK alone, nothing is more important than the success of the home care services industry.
Because of the UK’s ageing population, demand for home care is expected to continue to increase.
By 2040, 1 in 7 people will be over the age of 75. This demographic time bomb is predicted to cost an additional £79 billion of public spending alone by 2064.
This means that the home care service industry will see huge growth over the next 20 years.
However, many people are concerned about how this new demand for home care services will impact them. What technologies will they use to provide these services? And what does this mean for people working in home care?
We explore how the delivery of community care is changing, how technology will impact home care services in 2022 and begin to define the technologies that must emerge if we are to successfully meet the current and future demand for home care.
Is Home Care Replacing Some NHS Services?
Not exactly. Traditionally, many healthcare appointments mean travelling to a building resourced with people, systems, and equipment. The budgets required to maintain such a provision are significant.
Yet the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift towards people receiving care in their homes.
This change to the way care in the community is delivered has initiated a transition of healthcare services out of hospitals and into people’s own homes.
Crucially, this is supported by remote care professionals utilising mobile technology to deliver the same service, yet in an entirely different location.
When considering the build and maintenance of buildings, administration teams and systems, car parks and transport systems, this transition from delivering care in a setting to provision of care in people’s homes has the potential to make significant cost savings.
Broadly, the shift has seen home care providers increase their adoption of digital technology to capture and share sensitive information, and analyse data to predict future risk to people’s health and future resource requirements.
Although fiscally transitioning some services from the NHS to home care carries some logic, how can technology continue to develop and improve to do more to support home care providers?
People and time are possibly the most scare resources in home care.
There are currently not enough people to provide care, and they often don’t have enough time to deliver quality care.
Innovative technology could further support day-to-day working environments by automating and optimising tasks that people usually do.
Tasks can be time-consuming work associated with the provision of home care that a human being chooses to do.
Technology that is capable of working through and completing tasks can free up more time, remove some of the stress, and save money.
Innovative Technology for Home Care Operations
Currently, technology is being developed and tested in home care to support providers in a number of areas.
Carefully designed, fit-for-purpose technology can solve complex schedules in minutes and send rotas to care teams’ mobile phones. This could save coordinators up to 2 days every week.
An optimised rota means that every care professional is as efficient and productive as possible, with no unnecessary travel or wait (between visits) times. This means care professionals achieve improved work satisfaction and maximum take-home pay.
There are other significant aspects of a home care operation that could also benefit from innovative technology.
For instance, the workflows associated with recruitment, training, quality, auditing, reporting, finance and HR could be solved by intelligent systems under human oversight.
Automation and data sharing could improve the flow of information from home care providers to key stakeholders such as regulators, law enforcement agencies, brokerage teams, government agencies, CCGs, and discharge teams.
Imagine, for example, CQC’s intelligence gathering system receiving information from a provider about evidenced quality improvements in advance of an inspection. Or a local authority receiving data about an available care professional at a specific location and time, leading to a new care package for someone who had been on a waiting list.
These are only a few examples of how technology can augment people working in home care.
Intelligent systems, both fit for purpose and compliant, could save time and money, and support people to focus their time on supporting and developing people in the workforce, and in delivering excellence and continuity of care.
Predicting the Future with Data
Over time, good systems collect very useful and insightful data about care delivery in people’s homes.
If the data is accurate (which means people and systems collecting data need to be right), and if there is enough, predictive modelling analyses data to predict future outcomes, and even foresee the development of specific issues that could affect the health and wellbeing of an individual.
Illnesses, injuries and trips to hospital can be avoided, improving outcomes, and decreasing costs.
Home care providers will be able to predict future increases and decreases in demand for specific services, creating a runway of weeks or months to allow for specific planning and preparation.
For example, predictive technology could allow providers time to recruit and up-skill care teams, purchase new equipment and systems, and enhance policies and procedures.
Single Source of Truth
Another area that technology can improve is in the reduction of systems harnessed together to enable operational workflows.
A system that supports all functions of a home care provision would enable clean lines of communication and information flow between departments, creating a clear line of sight through all layers of an organisation.
In such a system, it would be possible to manage all areas of a home care operation.
By having just one system sign in, and just one button to click to perform complex tasks (such as reporting, payroll, billing, and scheduling) work would be comparably easier and more straightforward for operational teams, and key performance insights would be readily available for managers, senior teams and executives of larger organisations.
If a system could operate in real-time, this would further enhance the decision-making ability of people in the organisation, helping them to take the most effective, informed action, leading to the successful achievement of business objectives.
Will Technology Replace Humans?
The home care services industry is booming, with more and more people turning to home care to take care of their loved ones, and NHS budget holders looking for ways to save money.
But even though technology will continue to evolve and do more (with less) to help support home care providers, the sector will still need more people to deliver care.
Technology can’t replace humans. It may start to play a bigger role in how we care for our loved ones, but it will never replace the love and attention of a caring and frankly extraordinary care professional.
This year, home care needs both the advancement of innovative technology and an influx of more incredible people into the sector.
A combination of improved working conditions, better pay, and seamless, innovative and effective technology will go some way to ensuring providers are able to meet the demand for home care.