Not Just a Number: Improving and Optimising Home Healthcare

Posted by Rachael Pullen on April 2, 2013

The population is ageing at an unprecedented rate and with the NHSstruggling for bed space; people are being discharged from hospital earlier, increasing the need for healthcare at home. It’s a trend that is set to continue well into the future. Home healthcare has been a big topic of conversation in the news in recent months and the findings of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report (Not Just a Number, 2013) only strengthened the argument that, in order for care organisations to effectively deliver the standards of care required things in the industry need to change, and fast.

A few years ago I worked as a carer for a private home healthcare organisation. As a carer, I provided a range of home-based care services to the elderly and those requiring care as a result of a hospital stay or terminal illness. The majority of care companies work by scheduling carers and appointments using an old fashioned nursing rota system which doesn’t allow for complex scheduling, reassigning shifts or the high turnover within the industry. This has a negative impact on the service provided. I saw on the front line the physical and mental anguish that late or missed appointments have on patients and their families. I experienced the disorganised and disjointed approach to shift management and the pressure this put onto carers to deliver high quality care in a shift plan that hadn’t even taken into consideration how long it took to get to the appointment.

Frustrated with the situation, I became a care manager and experienced the chaos that ensues when someone calls in sick and you have to find cover for their shift. The sensitive and complex nature of healthcare requires a robust system that can assign a carer to a patient taking into account the skills required and the geographic location – a task that’s complicated enough when done manually but even more so when you factor in that most carers are employed on zero hours contracts and all work different shift patterns. Patient care plans are in place for a number of reasons and appointments are subsequently scheduled to take into consideration patients’ meals and, more importantly, medication. Movement of an appointment time by the smallest degree can be, at least, distressing but also potentially dangerous. Patients, particularly the elderly, are vulnerable and knowing who is coming to their home and at what time is crucial; changes can have a massive impact on that person’s wellbeing.

There were a number of significant findings and recommendations that came from the CQC report, but the top priorities to address included a lack of continuity, missed or late calls, inconsistencies at weekends, a lack of coordination when visits required two or more carers and a failure to keep patients and their families informed of change.

Now looking back on this situation from my role here at Leadent Solutions, I can see the massive benefits that an optimised mobile workforce strategy could provide to a home healthcare organisation. By taking advantage of the latest scheduling, rostering and mobile technologies, care plans could be effectively delivered providing better outcomes for the patients and a more satisfactory working environment for the carer. These outcomes would prove beneficial for the healthcare organisation, which maintains its reputation, satisfies all the requirements of the Care Quality Commission and provides updates in real time to carer, patient and office at the touch of a button. The technology that provides this capability is mature, proven and relied upon by many service industries; it’s time the healthcare industry embraced workforce optimisation.