The continual upsurge in population and life expectancy has put pressure on the NHS to deliver adequate care. As many will be aware, the NHS is struggling to cope with demands and, as a result, there is a greater emphasis on getting patients out of the hospital and managing their care from their homes. Nevertheless, caring for a patient in their own home can be difficult if there are not adequate facilities, shortage of nurses and is dependant the geographical location of the resident.

Unsurprisingly, care homes have become increasingly significant for UK healthcare and have become in demand. Care homes are those institutions where residents, who cannot look after themselves or whose family are unable to provide them with the support they deserve due to medical need, are accommodated and cared for with love and affection in the last days of their lives.

At a care home, a resident lives in a homely environment whilst receiving the care needed. Care home staff put a lot of effort into delivering more than adequate care including working long hours at distant locations.

It is imperative for a care home to be run efficiently for the sake care home staff, UK healthcare and, of course, the residents.

At the present moment in time care homes are facing a challenge in the realms of data management. Document Capture Co has come to understand the nature of these problems and the means of alleviating this strain.

The challenge faced by care homes

Maintenance of daily resident records is a huge stumbling block for care homes. It is commonplace for all care plan documentation to be updated and stored manually using paper files. This causes a series of difficulties.

There is a lack of version control. A single resident’s records are updated multiple times throughout the day by different care staff. Often a care staff will find themselves searching through paper files to identify what records their predecessor has updated, which is time consuming. As a result certain updates may slip under the radar; new instructions for a resident may be missed and so forth. The struggle in keeping regular updates and an audit trail can potentially impact a resident’s care in a negative way. This is by no means the fault of care staff; it is simply the manual method being employed.

The more residents a care home takes on and the longer a resident stays, the bigger their file becomes, which impacts on the costs of physical storage and the time taken managing their file.

The end result of all these inefficiencies is that is places a restriction on the amount of time a carer can spend with residents. A care home is all about giving a resident love and affection in the last days of their lives and paperwork severely hinders this.

The type of data collected

A care home collects a wide range of data daily. These include:

  • Personal hygiene record.
  • A resident’s food and fluid intake.
  • Bed turns, also known as repositioning, to prevent a resident getting bed burns/sores.
  • Handover sheet.
  • Other daily records as appropriate.

Other data collected as a one off, when a resident is first admitted or on an ad-hoc basis:

  • Drawing up the care plan.
  • Risk assessment form.
  • Accident form.
  • Doctor/dentist visit.
  • Other records, as and when a need arises.

Data collected requires an element of assessment and review to ensure the care homes are delivering the right care, for the peace of mind for the residents’ relatives and to meet the criteria of external regulators such as the CQC.

Data needs to be collected accurately and adequately, presentable in the appropriate formats.

Digital pens

Undoubtedly, care homes will have looked at alternative and electronic ways of collecting data such as using tablets and mobile devices. Although they sound appealing, there is a cost element to them as well an introduction of an entirely new way of collecting data, a transition that takes considerable time.

A digital pen works exactly like an ordinary pen, therefore one is not required to relinquish paper. The difference lies in a small camera that is attached to the pen. As a carer is completing residents’ records, the camera is taking multiple pictures of the pen strokes. The digital pen thus transforms the handwritten notes into a digital format and readable text for validation. Completed forms are stored electronically. As a result, administration and processing costs are reduced, it is easier to trace a form back owing to digital storage, which means excellent version control and audit trail. Furthermore, data is accurate and the latest data is available for show, when required.

The data that is initially stored on the pen can be routed back to a central database or server for storage. There is no longer a requirement to physically search through old records as forms are traceable, no manual data entry and data is available in real time.

Most importantly, however, is that these advantages are derived without drastically having to change the way data is collected. The concept of pen and paper remains yet enhanced to allow care staff to perform even better.