ELAROS Innovate UK Care Home Research Project Draws To A Close

Dysphagia guide
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ELAROS has recently completed a six-month project looking at how digital technology could be used to help deliver care to people living in care homes. 

The project, funded for six months by Innovate UK, aimed to identify the factors that should be considered when developing user-friendly technology to help care home staff support the management of the health and wellbeing of their residents. 

During the project, researchers from iCARHO spoke to care home staff from Care Home Assistants to Managers, to learn more about current working practices for recording the health and well-being of residents and the attitudes of staff to the introduction of digital technology to help them in their day to day activities. 

Prof Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of ELAROS commented “we found that none of the staff interviewed used any form of mobile or digital technology in their day to day activities and that records of health and wellbeing, for example what residents eat and drink, were recorded on paper”. 

Researchers found that even the use of personal computers was limited and that attitudes to the use of digital technology by care home staff were wide ranging from very negative to positive, especially if digital technology could help reduce paperwork. Staff in care homes are aware that “technology is coming” and that it may not be able to be escaped. 

Benefits to moving from paper-based systems to digital systems include, reduction in paperwork, rapid retrieval of information for care homes staff and care home inspectors and the provision of more ‘joined up’ healthcare between care homes and other areas of health service provision. When developing technology for care homes, it should be easy to use, robust and low cost. Frugal innovations that could be added to and rolled-out across a care home group were seen as the way forward. 

The funding also enabled ELAROS and the partners of the iCARHO project to work with a team of dysphagia experts from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals on the development of a digital Care Home Guide to Dysphagia, a condition that affects the ability of many elderly people to eat and drink safely. The Care Home Guide is currently under further development and will be a resource for staff working at care homes, from caterers and care assistants to managers and policy makers. 

Ben Griffin, Lead Specialist for Design at Innovate UK remarked, “ELAROS won funding through Innovate UK’s Design Foundations competition, enabling them to carry out rigorous customer research and to collaborate with UK design and user testing experts from the earliest stages of the iCARHO project. By using an iterative, human-centred design process, ELAROS have developed an adaptable, fit-for-purpose digital platform with a well-considered user experience”. 

There are thousands of care homes in the UK catering to an increasing population of elderly residents, each with complex needs. The challenges faced by care homes will continue to grow and the use of digital technology could be a means for helping care homes provide high quality care to their residents.