Essex, Kent and Suffolk councils roll out COVID-19 virtual care

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Essex County Council, Kent County Council and Suffolk County Council have rolled out COVID-19 virtual care.

As part of the announcement, local government explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has led the Government to take measures to encourage social isolation and slow the spread of the disease.

This roll out forms part of its rapid care technology deployment tool.

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The three councils wanted to protect vulnerable service users from the risk of infection, support them to self-isolate, and make sure they continue to receive the care and support they need in the most effective way and as the number of available care workers reduces.

This includes shielded individuals and high-risk people. Virtual visual check-in via video is a key part of this.

The councils also wanted to make it easy and safe for family members, neighbours and local community services to play their part in supporting people.

As well as protecting care workers from disease and infection risks, councils were keen to ensure that care workers can continue to work and earn income while they are self-isolating.

Virtual video check-in can be done from their own homes if they are self-isolating and will significantly increase productivity and capacity by avoiding unnecessary travel time.

They also outlined how a stabilisation to the care sector as the workforce reduces through sickness and isolation was important.

To solve the above criteria, Essex, Kent and Suffolk county councils made commitments early during the COVID-19 pandemic to utilise greater care technology to support communities and care providers. 

Whilst there is a wide-ranging market of care technology options available, the councils identified a locked-down tablet device (Alcove Video Carephone) to best suit their needs.

The video carephone allows care workers, family members and other approved services to be able to contact the recipient and vice versa through a video call.

The device is locked down and the system is a closed system, which is simple to use for vulnerable users – only approved responders who have access to the system can use the device. It also has a SIM card pre-installed so the recipient does not require WIFI.

The tiles on the device include:

  • formal care offer: care worker, day centre worker, community and voluntary services
  • informal carer / family members: minimum of 1 – up to 3
  • technical support to aid with set up as well as ongoing technical support (provided by the supplier)
  • help@Home service (for selected users only) to help with activities like shopping and obtaining medicines

Approved care workers and family members are given access to an app and portal to be able to make reciprocal video calls and also keep track of activity to ensure the recipient is managing during this difficult time.

The device, which is tablet sized and small enough to carry around the home, also has several additional functions which can be set up remotely including:

  • reminders (such as medications, getting dressed, drinking fluids)
  • video/virtual “eyes on” to see any changes in services users if they are symptomatic
  • enable professionals to ask users about personal tasks (eg “have you applied your cream to your leg”
  • texts to the device, for example “your carer is running late.”

Users can acknowledge completion of asks and carers or responders can be notified if users don’t respond to pop-up reminders.

The councils worked with the supplier to ensure a contactless delivery and support option. The device is delivered, without entering the home, to recipients together with operating instructions.

Once the recipient has plugged in their device, they will be instructed to press the support button which will call the supplier’s Technical Support. The user is then talked through the process of setting up and any questions or concerns they have.

Looking at the expected impact, the service will enable vulnerable residents to continue to receive care and support in the event that the number of available care workers reduces.

The provision simultaneously offers an alternate method of care delivery that maximises care workforce productivity and may assist in maintaining a higher level of healthy care workers by enabling increased social distancing and protecting the care workers from disease and infection risks.

It will also enable councils’ front-line services to better manage a dip in care capacity if the workforce reduces through sickness while service demands escalate.   

Tags : assistive technologyvirtual care
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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