Josh Hough, MD of CareLineLive, spoke to Home Care Insight about what he thought were the three biggest changes in the home care sector since the start of the pandemic.

This time last year UK carers were thrown into the limelight, as the nation began to recognise the role they play in keeping our vulnerable and elderly safe during the pandemic. Prior to this, many may have underestimated the vital function homecare agencies and their staff brought to the day-to-day life of those in need of care. With social interactions restricted, carers have taken on a new role of not just caring for their patients, but also as a vital link to friends and families.

One year on, and with restrictions slowly easing, it is a poignant time to assess the three biggest changes experienced in the homecare industry, and how COVID-19 has been the unlikely catalyst in the transformation of an industry very much in need of greater recognition.  

A digital revolution 

Both across the UK and the world, technology companies have been working quickly to develop solutions that combat the challenges created by the pandemic. Understandably, this has played a vital role in creating new vaccines, ensuring successful remote working, and automating processes that have long been overlooked. In the homecare sector in particular, huge efficiencies have been realised and the homecare digital revolution has sped up considerably.

Paper-based processes involving payroll, invoices, and timesheets are thankfully starting to be automated, allowing for faster pay cycles and easier calculations of payment for mileage and travel time. On top of this, through the utilisation of digital processes, managers take less time to complete rotas and communicate them to carers. And where changes need to be made, real-time adjustments are of no detriment to the carer or patient. 

Improving the technology infrastructure in this sector has been vital. Not only has it helped management and carers be more productive and efficient in their day-to-day tasks, but ultimately it has had a positive impact on patients, allowing the focus to fall rightly with them. If the processes carers take are streamlined and carers are more informed, the outcome means that those in need are experiencing more personalised care, bespoke to their individual needs. 

Connecting the circle of care

It would seem that we are slowly seeing the benefits of previous lockdowns, with virus rates dropping throughout the country, and the vaccination programme in full swing. However, in the absence of contact with family and friends over the past 12 months, carers have moved into a crucial role of connecting families and friends with their loved ones. 

Again, technology has played its part in making this possible. Automating processes has afforded carers more time to care for their patients, which in turn has offered them the time to keep families updated about their relative’s care. The effort to transform the care sector has been recognised by NHSX too, where digital transformation in both health and care is a goal to be achieved together. Over the course of the pandemic, over 11,000 iPads have been sent to care homes in an attempt to offer immediate connectivity to those that need it. 

This has been a difficult time for many, but the importance of technology in bridging this gap in social contact has been huge. When contact has been limited, it has been the work of agencies and carers providing real-time data and information, through the likes of family portals, that has helped ease the worries of their clients’ loved ones. 

Increased value and recognition 

The work and role of a carer has expanded and adapted to the changes in the last year. Particularly their willingness to operate under immense pressure during a pandemic, where their patients are among the most vulnerable and at risk to the virus. The commitment of carers has been recognised on a national scale, with movements such as ‘Clap for Carers’ during lockdown. 

Many people have suffered as a result of the virus, but not least those in need of care, often unable to complete day-to-day tasks without the help of their carer. With access restricted for family, these people have had to rely on their carer in ways they previously may not have needed to. 

As their work continues to be recognised, and the need for homecare grows in the UK, technology and automation in this area will be the new industry standard over the coming months and years. Ultimately, we must remember that people are at the heart of the care sector and with the help of technology, we can ensure that every person in the circle of care feels valued, supported and clients get the care that they need, always.

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