Specialised housing with telehealth support will play a key role in building integrated and sustainable communities for the future with technology at the core.
There’s no place like home, especially when it comes to helping older people and those with care needs to maintain their well-being and independence within their communities. This is why there’s a growing drive to integrate housing provision with health and social care.
Although this integration is in its early stages, I believe the housing sector’s skills and resources will be very important in helping social care and health providers sustain services when budgets are shrinking and give a better experience for people. Our experience of providing these services to a wide range of people makes a strong case for shifting long-term care away from hospitals and care homes, and improving outcomes for patients at a quarter of the price.
But how can housing providers ensure they deliver the right facilities and support for vulnerable people? In my view, it all starts with the design of the accommodation itself.
Building in care
Six years ago, One Housing Group decided to fully embrace telecare technology and make it a core part of our services. As well as expanding our own services, we wanted to promote aspiration, independence and social mobility among our residents and increase the choice and personalisation of services.
We saw that telecare was key to improving services and outcomes for individuals, and to delivering significant operational and maintenance benefits for us. So we built the technology into our accommodation and services as a fundamental component, not an add-on. This enabled true personalisation according to residents’ needs. Taking a closer look at how telecare achieves this, let’s look at a few examples of the types of accommodation we offer:
Extra care schemes and sheltered housing
Mixed populations of active older people alongside those with higher care requires flexible solutions to mitigating individual risks, such as falls, and telecare allows complete personalisation and unobtrusive support for residents. Telecare also enables easier overall management of the developments, boosting staff efficiency by negating the need for monitoring checks.
Specialist retirement schemes
One Housing is currently planning to build specialist retirement schemes featuring 80-100 homes along with communal facilities. It is expected that telecare will feature highly in the specification, enabling staff to cover the full spectrum of need. The latest telecare solutions support the efficient management of services by giving scheme managers a ‘dashboard’ view of calls and alerts, freeing up resources for those residents who may need urgent attention.
Building telecare technology into the design and fabric of accommodation allows us to support a much larger and more diverse group of residents without the need to increase resources. Our staff no longer need to make dozens or hundreds of routine risk-related checks, so they can focus instead on more meaningful contact with individuals, while still ensuring that full support is available in the event of an emergency.
Evidence for telecare
By using telecare, we are providing a service that is more cost effective than registered care or nursing accommodation, and we are offering better outcomes and increased satisfaction for people with long-term care needs. It reduces the number of hospital admissions related to incidents such as falls, and provides care and support for people to better manage their conditions. Furthermore, it also gives us a business edge over other housing providers.
For example, Bradford’s Partnership for Older People Project provides intensive support to older people with mental health problems at risk of institutional care. The programme found that 26 per cent of users were prevented from being admitted to a care home, and a further 13 per cent avoided a hospital admission. There was a 29 per cent reduction in homecare hours following intervention, and at full capacity it was estimated that the programme would save £550,000 each year.
Working with a dedicated technology partner, we can provide a reliable service using a complete range of solutions, from door entry and fire systems to supporting re-ablement, reducing falls, clinical monitoring or tablet-based systems to connect individuals to family and services.
It’s difficult to predict what the future holds in terms of the provision of care services and who will pay for those services. Recent market reviews such as the Dilnot Commission’s report on how to reform funding for adult social care had few concrete proposals, leaving many people unclear about their options.
However, it’s certain that telehealth and telecare technologies give us, as housing providers, the opportunity to offer our tenants a range of services to help ensure their long-term independence and wellbeing, regardless of future government policies or mandates.
Kevin Beirne is group director of housing care and support at One Housing Group.