A report published by Digital Social Care, NHSX and the Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University, has revealed the benefits and barriers of the increased use of technology experienced by social care providers in England during COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, information governance compliance requirements have been temporarily relaxed and care providers have been given quick and free access to NHSmail and Microsoft Teams. Free digital tools have also been made available and all care homes have been asked to start using the Capacity Tracker as a priority.
The eight-week research project ran during the height of the pandemic from 20 April to 19 June. Data was collected using Digital Social Care’s helpline and in-depth interviews with providers.
During this time, Digital Social Care’s helpline was contacted by 176 people, most (55 per cent) were from residential care.
Key findings of the report:
- Video conferencing was widely used by all providers. The three main drivers were GPs for virtual consultations, contact between clients and family, and internal communication between dispersed staff.
- Using equipment proved challenging for some providers. Many have said that it has been difficult to navigate systems to find the best options to respond to the needs of the people they support, themselves and other parties.
- Inconsistent findings on the use of remote monitoring, care management systems and digital solutions. Some providers have been using a range of digital tools whilst others are still very paper-based.
- Only two thirds of social care providers used their NHSmail accounts. Those using it say it has enabled speedier and more certain communications with GPs, hospitals and pharmacists, however, the registration process is still difficult and this has discouraged some care providers from continuing.
- The Capacity Tracker was being used by nearly all care homes but wasn’t perceived by providers as of a benefit to them.
“Care providers have rapidly adopted new technologies to adapt ways of working during this difficult period. This research shows the many benefits technology can offer to staff and the people they support. It is vital that we learn from the innovative approaches developed as part of the Covid-19 response,” said Vic Rayner, executive director of National Care Forum and Board member of Digital Social Care.
Providers that would like support to use technology or have questions can contact Digital Social Care’s helpline between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday by calling 0208 133 3430 or by emailing email@example.com.