Could technology provide a solution to the bed blocking crisis?

Last year, Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HCPA), Clinical Commissioning Groups and Hertfordshire County Council worked with OLM Systems, to set about finding a solution to the ‘Bed Blocking Crisis’.

Figures released that year show that Bed Blocking (referring to patients being medically fit to be released but no ongoing care being available) increased by more than 40%, when compared to the previous year. Delays typically occurring between the booking process in hospital discharge teams and social care.

With over 300 care home providers in the region, Hertfordshire County Council, needed a way of monitoring bookings in real time. They needed to be able to see where vacancies lie and easily fill them without the hassle of calling around to every home in the area. The previous process meant that patients, who are medically fit to leave hospital remained in beds due to problems arranging care in the community. This increases costs and does not live up to the standards of person-centred care.

Choosing the right digital technology partner

Hertfordshire County Council and their partners identified that only technology could support service transformation. However, no technology solution was available in the market to deliver what they needed. The right partner to develop the software was a key consideration. Within the borders of Hertfordshire they have more than a million citizens and any project would need to be built with future numbers and planning in mind. A commitment to person-centred care would be required. After a thorough analysis of capabilities in the IT sector, Hertfordshire and their partners selected OLM Systems to support them. OLM were chosen for their vast experience base of developing digital solutions to the health and social care sector.

A solution for the Bed Blocking Crisis

Simply named, BedFinder, the App increases the efficiency of Social Care and Hospital Discharge teams by more than 100%. The solution removes the considerable time spent calling around to care homes trying to find a suitable vacancy. In its place, the user now only needs to check the easy-to-use web solution for vacancies and book the space online. The time-saving nature of this change in process being priceless. Members of staff can re-focus and use the additional time to spend with those who need help the most. The solution reduces the time spent looking for a suitable bed vacancy by more than 50%. In addition to increased efficiency, the solution is intuitive and prevents double bookings. Once someone has reserved a room, it is passed over to the care home to approve or decline. The decision rests solely with the care home. Only they have the power to amend the solution, with email reminders and updates being automatically generated. Being intuitive and easy-to-use means that little to no training is required and this dramatically reduces the cost of ownership. The application was built from the ground up with all users in mind.

Listening to the users

Focus groups covered Hertfordshire’s current bed finding team, care home representatives, Hospital Discharge teams and even citizens and their careers. This was an essential consideration for Hertfordshire as they wanted to include all the users of the solution. At every stage, Hertfordshire worked with OLM and designed the software with simplicity in mind. Partners were able to rest easy in the knowledge that changes would be made and developed quickly. They wanted to ensure that the solution was developed quickly, efficiently and with all potential users in mind. This was evidenced in an early proof of concept, during which time OLM invited Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Care Providers Association and service users to see the initial concept for the first time. The session uncovered that certain parts needed to be enhanced and feedback was taken immediately, with updates crafted accordingly.

Meeting the requirements of the Care Act and ambitions of Digital 2020

In addition to the back end of the solution being focused on practitioners, BedFinder, was designed with a public facing site. Within this environment citizens are able to search and book available beds in the region quickly and easily. Citizens can access information about the care homes, search suitable bed places and read recent CQC inspection reports. This enables citizens and/or their carers to go online and make informed choices about their long-term or respite care. The addition of a public facing website is very important as it re-enforces Hertfordshire County Council’s commitment to citizens in the area.

Rather than being required to search through individual care homes online, citizens are now able to search in much the same as Bed Finders. For example, they can now go on to the solution and search for Dementia Care vacancies within 10 miles of their home. This is a very important addition for families worried about where their loved one may end up. Carers in the area have praised this functionality as they can now see what rooms are available. Carers save the economy £87 billion per year and so providing them with the right support is crucial to the health and social care economy. It is an essential money saving addition to the regular operation of the social care team in Hertfordshire and the rest of the country.

For more information relating to the BedFinder App and how it can help to solve the bed blocking crisis, join us at the Care Apps Showcase. ​We have been chosen to showcase our BedFinder solution alongside partners from Hertfordshire County Council. Hear from Kulbir Lalli, Head of Integrated Accommodation Commissioning and Chris Rose, Chief Commercial Officer at OLM.

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