Frontline carers are vital in delivering both health and social services in the community, however by embracing mobile technology in their daily routines they can bring the two disciplines closer together.
It is no secret that health and social care integration is high on the UK Government’s agenda, particularly in regards to looking after older people. Our aging society is forcing local organisations such as councils, NHS boards, GPs and their Community Health Partnerships (CHPs) to work closer together, and there is a lot of strategic discussion and debate as to how to meet the Government’s directives. Maybe now is the time to take a bottom-up approach to integration and look at the practical ways we can support both sets of frontline workers in the first instance.
Integrate at the point of delivery
Both health professionals and social care workers play a pivotal role in the ever-increasing necessity for out-of-hospital care. Whether they are assessing and recording clinical activities or completing a care plan, both social workers and healthcare professionals need relevant and up-to-date information to ensure those who need support get the right care at the right time.
Despite the digital transformation within the NHS and the emphasis placed on ICT for health and social care integration, mobile working, at this stage, does not necessarily mean mobile technology. Putting the right technology (literally) in the hands of frontline workers and making sure they are better connected for home visits can increase the amount of care for those in need and reduce time spent on ancillary activities including travel, paperwork and data entry.
Mobile working can provide common ground from which to start health and social care integration. For example, a social worker equipped with a mobile device that can access case notes, care plans and assessments will make better decisions on behalf of the person they are supporting, in addition to involving that person in their own care. If the same social worker was also able to access information from the health side, a better picture of the person’s wellbeing can be painted. This creates more informed decision-making and can reduce unnecessary readmissions to hospital.
Time to deliver
From a technical perspective, integrating at the point of delivery is completely possible. Local organisations do not need to wait for large-scale investments to ‘rip and replace’ current systems or systems integration in order to deliver more co-ordinated care. Care providers can start working on a practical level; there is no need to wait for a national standard approach to integrating health and social care.
To enable integration at the point of delivery, effective mobile working must focus on the end user; it is not a case of recreating the office environment in the field. This means the focus should not be on accessing a single type of data, but pulling in multiple sources of information and presenting it to the health or social care worker in a way that works for them, giving them all the facts relevant to them and not just a single system view.
Multiple providers, one service
Ultimately, those who need support are not concerned whether their care is being provided by the NHS, local council or a private provider; they look at it holistically. To them, it is all part of a service whether it is clinical tasks, taking medication, bathing or cooking meals.
Using mobile technology to its full potential can link both health and social care information together, empowering frontline staff to carry out tasks with all the facts available. And for those on the frontline it does not matter which discipline they represent. They both want to make a difference.
Colin Reid is Chief Executive of TotalMobile