The continuous rise in UK population, particularly within the elderly generation has resulted in an over-stretched NHS that is unable to support the demand. Hospitals are increasingly looking for ways to treat patients away from the hospital bed, as a cheaper alternative.

Home care is the ideal alternative. Home care or domiciliary care is the provision of care for a patient in their own home, thus the opposite of a residential care home. Unfortunately, local authority funded domiciliary care are facing ever increasing budget constraints, which means they have to raise their eligibility criteria or only fund the care of patients with the most complex needs. Resultantly, many people are self-funding their own care. It was estimated that in 2013/2014 228,000 people funded their own care.

Challenges faced by a domiciliary care home

Both private and public domiciliary care homes are faced with the same challenges. Specifically, the maintenance of a patients care records. More often than not, all care plan documentation is updated and recorded manually using paper.

To put forward a simple example, a district nurse will visit a patient in their own home and record all the necessary information such as their food and fluid intake. Next, once the nurse returns back to base, she is required to manually input that data and update a patient’s record into the domiciliary care companies own system. Furthermore, all paper documentation requires archiving.

Another scenario is a difficulty in maintaining version control. If multiple district nurses are looking after the same patient throughout a week, communicating changes to care plans and passing on updated information during handovers is also a difficult task. As all documents are manually stored in filing cabinets, retrieving key information is a laborious and time-intensive task.

In the grand scheme of things, having to put up with large quantities of manual and time consuming administration means less time spent with a patient, negative effects on the quality of care delivered to a patient, inaccurate data recording, the costs of physical paper storage and the time-intensive nature of retrieving paper records. Over time, this causes a snowball like effect. The longer a patient is in need for domiciliary care, the bigger their file becomes and the more difficult it is to manage their care records.

The types of data collected

Generally, a domiciliary nurse will collect the following types of data from patients per visit:

  • 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 on a one-off or ad-hoc basis includes:

  • Drawing up the care plan.
  • Risk assessment form.
  • Accident/falls form.
  • Visits by other healthcare personnel i.e. a doctor or dentist

Moreover, data collected requires an element of assessment, review and reporting to ensure the right care is being delivered, for the peace of mind of the residents’ relatives and to meet the criteria of external regulators such as the CQC. Data thus needs to be collected accurately and adequately, presentable in the appropriate formats.

Digital ink pens

From experience, we understand most, if not all, domiciliary care companies are looking for methods to go paperless when collecting patient care records. Although tablet and mobile devices sound appealing, they are an entirely new way of collecting data, a transition that may take considerable time.

A valuable alternative is a digital ink pen. A digital ink pen is able to convert handwritten information into an electronic format and thus digitise all care records. A district nurse will use the digital ink pen to record data during visits on paper as per normal, however once data collection is complete, the pen will create a digital copy of the paper, which is then digitally archived. Next, the data converted by the pen is processed and stored in the domiciliary company’s internal system.

The benefits

Key benefits of using a digital ink pen to record care data are as follows:

  • No manual data entry: The electronically converted data goes directly into your system.
  • No paper archiving: All care documentation is digitally archived in an appropriate order, fully searchable and easy to retrieve. As a result, handover and version control becomes easier.
  • Reduction in administration costs.
  • Care documents are easily traceable.
  • Time savings: Spend more time with patients owing to fewer administration tasks.
  • Provide better care to patients: Providing a better service to patient’s means increased patient satisfaction and the opportunity to grow as a care company.
  • Become scalable: Increasingly take on the care of more patients without sacrificing quality of care delivered or having to take on a greater administration burden.

A digital ink pen is an upgrade on the usual pen and paper method of recording data and has potential to change the face of community care for the better.