Last month, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock signalled his backing for the use of CCTV safety monitoring in care homes. However, while this shift in policy has gained general approval, it also raises additional questions, not least regarding privacy. The needs of vulnerable individuals of any age are complex and the vast proportion of care giving activity occurs within private spaces, including bathrooms and bedrooms. Is ubiquitous use of CCTV within both private and communal spaces, even at home, to be welcomed?
Safeguarding is key; but the focus should not be simply on keeping a watching eye over individuals; technology today can and is being used to transform the timeliness and quality of care. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are being used to track patient activity and behaviour and rapidly identify potential health concerns to support preventative care. Mobile apps are reducing admin, improving carers’ patient information and enabling detailed and immediate contact with family members. Essentially, VIPs can be supported 24×7, both within a care facility and at home – and, critically, supporting the transition between locations.
Helen Dempster, Chief Visionary Officer, Karantis360 explains the importance of not only safeguarding but proactively improving VIP care within private spaces, both at home and within care facilities…
The move towards using CCTV safety monitoring in care homes has been fuelled largely by the isolated, but shocking cases of care home abuse and the need for greater transparency. These stories highlight the concerns facing families with loved ones receiving care, both in care facilities and at home: how can society balance the need to deliver the best possible care for every vulnerable individual with the potential privacy infringement associated with CCTV, especially within private spaces?
Safeguarding is essential, but an individual’s privacy and their right to dignity must be considered when deciding if CCTV is appropriate. The Care Campaign for the Vulnerable calls for such monitoring in the communal areas in care homes; but it is also important to recognise that communal spaces represent a very small proportion of the overall care experience. The majority of care is delivered within an individual’s home; and even in care homes and hospitals, essential caring activity is undertaken within bathrooms and bedrooms. There is wide consensus that, unless specific consent is given, these spaces that should remain private: streaming CCTV from such locations raises significant concerns regarding the privacy of vulnerable individuals.
The question, arises, therefore, as to how technology can be used to enhance the provision of care. How can care organisations ensure a high quality of care is delivered to VIPs consistently? How can carers maximise the amount of time they spend with individuals? And how can family members attain peace of mind and confidence in the well-being of loved ones at all times?
This is where technologies such as mobile apps and IoT are already transforming lives. Adding IoT sensors to a VIP’s private room can provide vital insight into day to day activity. Combined with an AI algorithm, once a pattern has been confirmed, care providers can immediately spot any behavioural changes that fall outside the norm, problems which could indicate potential medical issues.
Movement sensors, for example, can reveal if a reminisce ward with multiple patients with dementia diagnoses requires intervention from nursing staff, rather than staff having to unnecessarily disturb VIPs’ sleep. Chair and bed sensors will show if an individual is failing to move about as much as usual, which will play a key factor in a patient’s rehabilitation after surgery or a fall. Bed Sensors can also help to prevent pressure sores used in a specific way, which helps to relieve the amount of pressure placed on a carer’s shoulders and the amount they have to remember on a daily basis. Combining a VIP’s behaviour patterns with an easy to use mobile app ensures a care giver can be prompted to ask specific questions, potential health concerns are flagged and prioritised, enabling essential preventative intervention. Furthermore, by streamlining reporting via the mobile app, carers can minimise the admin burden and spend more time with VIPs, further improving the quality of each interaction.
For loved ones, this combination of mobile app and IoT can provide huge peace of mind. Carers can use the technology to share information, messages and pictures with family members, who can also have access to the latest care reports as well as sensor information. The real-time nature of the IoT sensor information also transforms the speed of response: family members can be totally confident that, should a VIP’s behaviour move outside the norm, an alert will be raised immediately.
The value of this approach is that it provides so much more than the reactive watchful eye offered by CCTV; real-time IoT sensor information enables better understanding of a VIP’s immediate needs to enable more timely care to be delivered. Critically, this proactive model is key to the preventative intervention that can transform health outcomes, enabling VIPs to return home sooner from alternative care settings, for example.
This is another fundamental consideration: not only improving outcomes but supporting the transition of VIPs from care facility or hospital back home. With a recent report from Aegon indicating that 92% of people in the UK think that it’s important that they remain in their own home as they get older, providing appropriate continuity of care for the frail is imperative. Few families will install CCTV at home – and fewer still have the time or desire to watch a family member’s day to day activities in this way, it simply feels too intrusive.
The use of sensors, in contrast, is completely non-intrusive and can enable both carers and family members to determine how well an individual is managing, and, again, ensure the alarm is raised if essential activity is not occurring. Does the humidity sensor confirm a VIP has failed to turn on the kettle this morning? Has the bathroom door sensor not been activated for a number of hours? Does a bed sensor suggest the VIP has not got up today? Essentially, individuals and their families can enjoy the security of 24×7 monitoring within the hospital environment back in their own home.
Moreover, this technology could support much needed changes to the funding of social care, with delays to the social care green paper raising widespread criticism. Real-time data from such digital systems enables a wider ecosystem to be more educated, reducing the pressure on emergency services and acute care – and the associated costs – as GPs and nurses can potentially be alerted by carers to any health problems that are occurring before they become severe and require hospital care.
Families will go to any lengths to ensure a loved one is receiving the best care, but when the majority of care is delivered within the home, and even in care homes and hospitals essential caring activity is undertaken within private spaces, CCTV will never deliver the full picture.
The objective for families and care providers is to not simply to keep a watchful eye over the vulnerable and elderly: it is about proactively using technology to understand a VIP’s state of health and identify the need for preventative care that can reduce, even avoid, critical events. IoT is enabling care providers to enhance the VIP experience 24×7.