How the pandemic has shaped digital transformation
The development of technological solutions to enrich and aid the lives of those giving and receiving care across the industry is a continuously dynamic process. Where ideas and designs may have been in the pipeline, 2020 saw providers accelerate the adoption of their roadmaps to combat the new challenges brought on by the pandemic. For WiFi SPARK, this meant working with existing customers in the NHS and care home sector to understand the growing pain points and look at how its technology could work to alleviate stress, feelings of isolation and aid in the management of care.
The company’s roadmap saw its star solution, SPARK® Media, evolving to encapsulate digital care service integration across a number of years. Its premiere in late 2019 focused on patient entertainment, providing access to television, radio, streaming services, games and a digitised library of magazines and newspapers available via the on-site WiFi and accessible on user’s own devices.
More than just entertainment
Increasing hospital admissions meant that sites that carried the solution were able to provide their patients with free entertainment opportunities to keep them engaged as wait times increased and staff capacity was stretched. But as restrictions tightened and 2020 intensified, it was clear that SPARK® Media was going to have to deliver more than just entertainment and fast.
Some of the immediate challenges brought on by the pandemic included increased feelings of isolation generated by visiting restrictions in healthcare facilities, the reduction in communal entertainment options, such as magazines in waiting rooms, to reduce the spread of infection and the general scarcity of available appointments due to over spread staff and reduced face-to-face appointments.
Working with NHS and care home staff, WiFi SPARK was able to identify these issues and develop ways in which technology could lessen the burden.
The issue of isolation was tackled when WiFi SPARK delivered an account-free video calling platform, accessible to all for free, to aid in users keeping in touch with loved ones and remaining connected to healthcare professionals.
Keeping the country connected
SPARK® Media: Unite blossomed across the NHS to reduce feelings of loneliness brought on by extended solo hospital stays. The removal of the need to establish an account meant that anyone can freely access the service and the deployment of trust-owned tablets allowed even those without their own WiFi-enabled device to experience the same connection to home. The tablets are then quickly disinfected and used by another patient.
Steve Killick, WiFi SPARK’s Project Manager, spent an extended period in hospital himself. He noted that, “having experienced social isolation due to a two-week inpatient hospital stay, 167 miles away from home, video calling was essential to my own mental wellbeing. Being able to see my two young boys, aged five and six, and my wife over a video call to say goodnight every evening was the highlight of my day”.
Steve recognises his technical background makes accessing the platform relatively easy for him, however, he is “delighted to have assisted in rolling out a solution which can provide that same experience to anyone no matter their technical ability, age or mental capacity”.
In the care home sector, Unite is being used to aid remote consultations and make best use of the healthcare professional’s time. Experiencing some of the tightest covid restrictions, care homes closed their doors to external visitors for the majority of 2020-21. To ensure residents and staff continued to receive the support they needed, Unite was utilised to bring the healthcare professional, virtually, into the home.
Maintaining the personability of a face-to-face consultation, the availability of video calling allowed GPs to keep far more appointments and work through their schedules in a more efficient manner, without the risk of spreading infection.
Infection control through technology
Reducing the infection risk by removing communal entertainment opportunities such as access to magazines and newspapers or watching entertainment in a group took away a main source of enrichment for many.
Ensuring reading materials were disinfected and that no group gatherings occurred were just some of the infection control measures that came into effect. The healthcare industry as a whole was keen to evaluate how it could reinvigorate entertainment options and looking to existing engagement providers was a way to do that.
SPARK® Media: Print was developed to allow the healthcare sector and beyond to continue to provide reading materials to guests, digitally. Accessible through the WiFi, guests are able to browse an up to date digital newsstand of content with something for all ages and backgrounds. Sites like King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust opted to display Storytime magazine for their younger patients whilst delivering access to the BBC’s Reminiscence services aiding those living with dementia, the customisable nature of the platform ensured there was something for everyone.
With basic infection control measures across the care sector remaining firm to stop the spread of covid-19 among other illnesses, digital transformation fortifies efforts whilst opening up new engagement opportunities as well as reworking the ones lost to the pandemic.
The care sector has undergone a shock over the last few years and there are undeniable caverns of damage that have been inflicted on the sector’s progress, workforce, and operability. But just as the NHS has committed to using digital to evolve and transform, care homes must also turn to the technology born out of the pandemic. Designed and adapted to solve new problems, providers are able to tailor your solution even further to support your users.
Whether your pain points focus on infection control, the provision of engagement resources or administrative integration, digital is here to help you. By embracing digital change and being quick to act, care providers have been able to make a difference to people’s lives.