It’s time to start combatting the collateral damage of Covid-19

Helen Dempster, Chief Visionary Officer, Karantis360 discusses the wider implications of COVID-19 for those identified as vulnerable and the necessary safeguarding solutions that need to be put in place, ultimately to protect lives. 

These past few months have seen the whole nation coming together to adhere to social distancing rules thus having the desired effect on reducing NHS pressure, as the government reports A&E visits halving. But, these drastic changes also highlight a significant cause for concern; the public – particularly those identified as vulnerable – are too scared to seek medical attention in fear of contracting Coronavirus, or being a ‘burden’ on the overstretched NHS, with four in ten choosing not to seek help for this reason.

Although the government is urging people to continue to seek medical help when needed during the pandemic, without the correct safeguarding solutions in place – lives will be lost.

Even after social distancing restrictions begin to lift in the UK, many of the older generation and vulnerable individuals will be too frightened to seek medical advice in fear that they will be expected to leave the safety of their own home. This means that even the most treatable of illnesses could escalate into an avoidable situation.

While we know staying at home is the recommended option for vulnerable individuals and older adults given the current crisis, and more importantly the preferred long term choice of 97% of people aged 68+, how do we truly ensure that they are being kept safe at home?

Preventable escalation

Early detection of illness or infection among those identified as vulnerable can mean the difference between life and death. But often the VIP may not even be aware of their symptoms, or they are too frightened to ask for help in fear of being admitted to hospital, which in many cases results in the issue escalating and remaining unnoticed for too long. 

Proven technology, such as IoT systems, provides a non-intrusive safeguarding solution. Deploying sensors throughout the home to monitor the habitual routine of the VIP, provides real-time information that may be of either reassurance or concern to families, carers, and doctors – enabling them to react accordingly and swiftly. Common problems such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can be detected and treated rapidly – minimising the risk of the infection escalating to a critical point that requires a visit to A&E and possible hospital admission.

Combating social isolation

With 3.6million of the elderly living by themselves and 1.9million saying they often feel alone or invisible, the current situation is only going to exacerbate this. Carers can play a key part in reducing feelings of loneliness; harnessing technology facilitates carers to confidently monitor how well their client is doing at home, and organise their visits more effectively. As a result of this carers can provide a more personalised care experience, as well as, asking more well-informed lifestyle questions and identify any problems faster. Furthermore, the system has also been proven to reduce carers’ administration time by 50% allowing them to spend quality time caring and interacting with their VIP.

Visibility and feeling connected to their relatives has also become a concern for those whose loved ones are isolating and being cared for in their own homes, often creating unnecessary mental stress for all parties. While it may be difficult to reduce the distance between a family member and their loved one, technology has the opportunity to bridge that gap and create a visible, personalised service that will suit both the client and relative’s individual needs. Loneliness is a complex issue to solve but little changes can make a big difference. 

Reducing pressure on the care ecosystem

The current Coronavirus crisis has resulted in the NHS turning its attention to technology to help alleviate pressure. While it’s unfortunate that it’s taken a global pandemic to start implementing digital solutions – it’s a lesson for the future.  

By 2030 it is estimated that the world will need 80 million health workers to meet the demands of the global population, but the reality is that the world will actually be short of 15 million health workers. As the population continues to age, the strain on the health system increases still. The future of healthcare looks bleak if we do not start making changes and learning from these global catastrophes. Social care needs to start harnessing technology now if our loved ones are to receive the care they deserve, not just in the short term, but for the generations to come. 

Keeping the NHS Moving

Porters are one of the, often unseen and unrecognised, cogs that keep a hospital running. During the current Covid 19 crisis the efficiency with which porters can move patients is going to be critical in maintaining flow throughout the hospital – but how can that be achieved when demands are so high and porter numbers are likely to be reduced due to ill-health or self-isolation?

With so many NHS Trusts still reliant on manual portering allocation, Deb Sutton, Director of Client Support, TeleTracking explains how automated tracking and allocation of jobs can improve efficiency by up to 20% while also making it faster and easier for clinicians to request portering services.

Lack of Visibility

The vast majority of NHS Trusts are still relying on manual methods for requesting and allocating portering services. At any time, this results in delays and inefficiency. At the moment, when every second counts and there is a pressing need to optimise ever decreasing resources, the lack of visibility regarding both porter location and performance is compromising a very stretched system.

In an increasingly digital NHS, the reliance upon a single telephone line for all clinicians to request a porter is extraordinary.  Why should highly stressed individuals spend time trying to get through to the single dispatcher, often making repeated calls because the line is engaged? How, with no view of where any porter may be in the hospital, can one dispatcher efficiently allocate tasks?  And how long does the clinician need to wait before realising the porter isn’t coming and has to call again?

The process is outdated, inefficient and unnecessary. It is compromising performance and affecting patient outcomes.

Automated and Efficient

An automated solution eradicates the need for any dispatchers – saving between £60,000 and £150,000 per year, depending on the size of hospital. Requests for a porter can be made within seconds, and the clinician has full visibility that a porter has been dispatched both on the digital White Board within the ward and on a mobile device. This radically reduces the time spent by clinicians requesting and chasing portering services, freeing up additional time to care.

With real time visibility of the location of every porter, jobs allocation can be optimised. Using both the location and the priority of the patient – rather the priority of the person requesting the porter –removes the human element, eradicating the somewhat arbitrary allocation that can often occur with manual dispatch and also ensuring a fairer distribution of work to all porters.

There is also no need for a porter to return to a central location after each job is completed – using a mobile app to confirm a patient has been successfully moved, the porter will then receive the next job immediately. The efficiency gain is very significant, with one London Trust achieving a 20% improvement in productivity by replacing manual allocation and radios / paging devices with hand held devices with optimised allocation and scheduling.

Achieving Best Practice

The tracking solution also provides management with detailed insight into the performance of both the portering service and individuals, supporting the use of bonus incentive schemes that further increase productivity. Information includes the average number of jobs undertaken per hour, the number of jobs that are cancelled or rescheduled after dispatch, the average pending time to dispatch, average response time and average trip time – insight that can be invaluable for clinicians in both planning and informing patients of when they will be moved.

Furthermore, with complete visibility of all porters, many Trusts are able to move away from dedicating porters to specific departments and provide a completely shared portering service across the entire hospital. The benefits are significant with Trusts gaining more productive portering hours throughout. With clear insight into productive time versus available time, Trusts can also determine the required level of portering resources, invaluable insight at a time of unprecedented demand on resources.