BaptistCare’s overarching technology strategy shifts the focus away from backend functions and towards the provision of care. Jackie Keast reports.
BaptistCare’s technology strategy may be futuristic, but its premise involves going back to basics: how to best provide quality care.
The strategy, which involves the leveraging of wireless technology to implement the “Internet of Things” or non-traditional devices connected to the internet, aims to streamline administrative tasks in order to maximise staff resources.
“Most of the technologies or concepts we’re looking at in our facilities are focused on empowering our staff to be able to spend more time providing care, by taking away other drudge work that they do,” George Lymbers, chief information officer of BaptistCare, tells Technology Review.
“We can deliver much better health outcomes and care for our clients by being as proactive as possible using innovative technologies.”
Lymbers recalls that when he first arrived at BaptistCare and saw the existing technology in place, he identified a need to shift the focus away from backend processes and towards the provision of care.
“The technologies were getting to the point where, for an organisation like us, it’d become like plumbing,” he says. “That’s when you go back to the business and say look, what can we do to help you now? How can we leverage that technology?”
Formulating the plan
In developing the strategy, Lymbers and his ICT team consulted with frontline staff to discuss what issues both they and residents faced and how they could be potentially be resolved via technology. He also considered how the use of emerging technologies in other sectors could be applied to the aged care environment, such as mobile technology in the fast-moving consumer goods industry and monitoring devices in acute-care.
From there, BaptistCare worked for 18 months to design an integrated management and communication system known as CareMAP, which utilises smart technology. Technology partners, such as Logicalis and HP, were brought on to help to find the most cost-effective solution and ensure the system was future-proof. Under a multi-year contract, HP will install networking switches and dual access points across BaptistCare facilities in order to deliver gigabit mobile connectivity.
BaptistCare’s most recently opened facility in Griffith, ACT, has already had the technology upgrade installed and Point Clare and Kellyville in NSW will follow. Other facilities will be fitted out as they come up for refurbishment and renewal.
For Lymbers, one of the most exciting features of CareMAP is that when a resident presses their call button, the system will locate the closest staff member and immediately establish a voice connection between the two, using a Vocera badge worn around staff members’ necks. Further, if the resident who has made the call only wants a cup of tea and the staff member who answers is a registered nurse, that nurse can instantly re-route the call to the closest assistant in nursing instead.
Lymbers says the advantage of such technology is that not only does it allow staff to triage, the instant response gives the resident the sense they are being looked after.
One of the biggest issues for clients is that staff don’t respond fast enough, Lymbers says. “It’s not just responding to their need, it’s responding to them by saying ‘hello, I’ve got your call, you’re important to me’,” says Lymbers of developing the system. “CareMAP’s all about response.”
CareMAP will also allow BaptistCare to turn its facilities into ‘smart’ buildings. Using the Vocera badge, staff members have voice control to turn on and off light switches, adjust air-conditioning temperatures or lock doors throughout the facility. Appliances in the building, such as air-conditioning units and fridges, will also report on themselves when they have an issue, negating the need for frontline staff to worry about maintenance issues.
Looking to the future
Lymbers says that an important feature of the technology upgrade is that it is sufficiently sustainable – from both a technological and cost perspective – to allow BaptistCare to take advantage of emerging technologies in the future, including wearables and robotics.
BaptistCare is currently partnered with Samsung to consider its Simband technologies for potential use as a wearable biometric instrument and support device.
“Wearable technology is one thing that we’re looking at that will contribute to the wellbeing of our client by taking biomedical information, automatically storing it into a database, then analysing it and bringing out alerts through the system when necessary,” says Lymbers.
Not only does this mean that a facility can run on lower staff levels, it also enables staff to spend more quality time with the client – talking to them, being with them, helping them dress, he says.
Lymbers hopes the technology upgrade will make BaptistCare an employer of choice into the future, especially as an ageing workforce means qualified nurses and carers are in high demand.
“Our staff are our most valued resource. Having access to the latest technology allows us to have a better chance of retaining and recruiting the very best staff possible,” he says.
Since this article was first published in Technology Review magazine (September 2015), Mr Lymbers has left BaptistCare.
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