Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the NHS released a ‘long-term plan’ to span across the coming decade, highlighting the good and the bad of the National Health Service and how it will work to improve itself. Key among the assessments was an identified need to ‘set out a wide-ranging and funded programme to upgrade technology and digitally-enabled care across the NHS’. Following the turmoil of the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen an exacerbation of this need for a digital-first NHS across all aspects of care including the provision of patient entertainment as isolated hospital stays increased in duration and frequency. But nowhere more was this isolation keenly felt than in care homes across the country.
WiFi SPARK had identified the need for an improvement in the resident entertainment and connectivity provision before the pandemic broke. Chief Commercial Officer Dean Moody approached NHSX in 2019 with a considerable business case as to how investment into digital transformation in the care home sector would not only be beneficial for the residents but could also see a considerable return on investment for the NHS, through embracing the digital tools within the market.
The business proposal centred around working with WiFi SPARK partners to accelerate the connectivity within care homes and from that, facilitate access to a variety of digital services aimed at making remote monitoring, mobile work environments for NHS staff and home administrative duties work more efficiently enabling money to be saved. On top of this, a renewed WiFi package would enable resident entertainment to be considerably advanced.
A signature of WiFi SPARK’s media provision in the NHS, SPARK® Media is a free-to-use entertainment platform from which residents can watch television, listen to the radio or read digitised newspapers and magazines all from a WiFi-enabled phone, tablet or computer. Already deployed across over 90 NHS Trusts across the UK, the SPARK® Media solution has effectively kept patients entertained during lengthy hospital stays, all with no cost to the end-user. Adapting the provision for care home residents and highlighting dementia-specific nostalgia resources had the possibility to deeply enrich the experiences of the residents when browsing the collection.
NHSX agreed with WiFi SPARK that a provision of this kind was long overdue and gave the green light to implement a trial run in two care homes; The Garth and Mapleton Road located in Kington and London, respectively.
Working with partners Cisco Meraki at the council-run Mapleton Road and Ruckus at the privately-owned Garth, WiFi SPARK was able to ensure the homes were provided with speed, reliability and top-of-the-line performance in their WiFi. With both homes having multiple floors, over 30 residents, mobile staff and varying visitor numbers it was imperative that the WiFi was able to keep up with the dynamic spaces whilst providing security and reliability.
Prior to the solution being installed, WiFi SPARK conducted a survey at both homes to ensure that the right needs were being met and that the solution aligned with the technical abilities of the residents and staff.
After a delayed installation due to coronavirus restrictions, The Garth and Mapleton Road was up and running in spring 2021. Providing the homes with tablets from which to access a new WiFi connection, branded User Experience portal and a plethora of digital services with tailored dementia links, the residents are now able to take enjoyment from the WiFi offering and use it to keep in touch with practitioners, loved ones and be empowered to learn more about their care all via the easy-to-use tablets.
As for the value-added for the NHS, it comes in many forms. With the investment in the installation of the top-of-the-line Cisco Meraki and Ruckus networks, WiFi SPARK can facilitate remote consultations between NHS staff and residents. During the exacerbation of workload and variety of new responsibilities for NHS staff, remote monitoring and remote consultations save valuable time and money in not having to arrange in-person visits. Furthermore, with the care home staff and NHS staff working dynamically, and in the case that in-person visits are necessary, strong and secure connectivity allows staff to easily connect to the new WiFi in place via their own User Experience to access clinical information and a variety of digital aids.
On top of this, WiFi SPARK has worked closely with the NHS through the development of its SPARK® Media package to integrate access to the NHS Apps Library, the NHS Health A-Z, NHS Medicines A-Z, and much more all to aid staff and empower patients to take control and understand their own care. This is no different for care home residents and staff, by facilitating access to a selection of NHS digital services and tailored entertainment links residents become actively involved in their wellbeing and staff are able to maintain open conversations with easy-to-access digital prompts.
Any WiFi SPARK solution comes with an entirely managed service. Monitored by WiFi SPARK engineers, the care home solutions deployed at The Garth and Mapleton Road are assisted by a 24/7/365 UK-based Service Desk on hand to answer any connection queries on the solution.
With the aim of the trial being to display the opportunity for a return on investment when embracing digital transformation in the care home sector and simultaneously elevating the care given and entertainment available to care home residents, WiFi SPARK has been able to produce a solution highlighting these aims.
For the NHS and private care home owners, in advancing the digital offering there is an opportunity to save money through remote monitoring, remote consultations and the use of the NHS digital services already applied in healthcare facilities up and down the country. Furthermore, in fortifying the WiFi provision and working with WiFi SPARK to develop a staff specific User Experience, staff are able to move dynamically from site to site, around the building and between different healthcare facilities whilst being able to retain their clinical files and notes all enabled by an investment in the WiFi.
On top of this, revitalising the WiFi and resident entertainment offerings in care homes is an integral goal of WiFi SPARK’s and it sees an opportunity for care homes, their residents, staff and visitors to get more out of their WiFi.
The residents of The Garth and Mapleton Road can expand their digital skills, surf the web and access a variety of entertainment from new tablets. For residents living with dementia, they now have the BBC Reminiscence Archive and Music Memories all just a click away to enjoy content from across the decades to stimulate their long-term memories. Furthermore, staying in contact with loved ones has never been easier all through a WiFi SPARK solution.
Staff can also enjoy the entertainment on offer and work with residents to ensure everyone is enjoying and effectively using the platform. But most of all, with the WiFi SPARK Service Desk on hand around the clock, there is no extra workload or stress applied to staff if there is an issue with the WiFi or the tablets as the Service Desk are available to help 24/7/365.
Developing a digital transformation solution in the British care home sector needed to enable the provision of care to be made easier and empower residents to understand and play an active role in their own care. Because of this, the delivery of internet-enabled tablets which would facilitate this transition was paramount. WiFi SPARK strive, within the healthcare sector broadly, to increase patient empowerment through its solutions; working in tandem with the selection of NHS digital services and tailored websites and apps, carers, practitioners and residents now have a variety of educational, clinical and administerial content at their fingertips to develop a digitally-enabled care plan.
Some of the digital services available on the tablets are:
- Skype & Zoom for remote consultation and keeping in touch with loved ones
- Information pages for local events/bus timetables
- Local news
- BBC Reminiscence Services
- My Care links including the NHS Apps library
History of The Garth and Mapleton Road
Situated in the historic market town of Kington, the town has become known as a centre of walking over recent years and is a popular destination for tourists. The Georgian house has been expanded over three levels to now include 33 single bedrooms.
Privately run, Alan and Patricia Prior established the care home in 1988 with the goal of providing personalised care for the community they serve. Their son Rick joined the business in 1999 taking an active role in maintaining the family ethos of the home. Rick continues to be actively involved in both the business strategy and development of the home but also supporting staff on a daily basis.
Located in the London borough of Waltham Forest, Mapleton Road is a care home providing personal care for residents over the age of 65, the majority of whom are living with dementia.
Waltham Forest borough is registered as the provider that operates the home alongside three others in the South East.
Following the full implementation of the WiFi and resident entertainment solution across The Garth and Mapleton Road and a period of usage, WiFi SPARK will conduct a second survey. This survey will be to ensure that all of the pain points voiced before deployment have been met. It will also be to answer whether there are certain aspects of the solution that work well or perhaps some that do not or even to learn directly from the end-users what they would like to see added to enrich their usage further.
With the large majority of care homes across the country, both public and private, maintaining inadequate WiFi and resident entertainment provision, The Garth and Mapleton Road will hopefully serve as inspirations for a sector-wide upgrade and prioritisation to ensure care homes are getting the most value from their WiFi.
As for The Garth and Mapleton Road specifically, WiFi SPARK will learn from the feedback given in the surveys to continue providing a solution that meets the needs of residents and staff whilst continually innovating to facilitate the best offering possible. WiFi SPARK will encourage the adoption of the digital services on offer and ensure that the NHS, staff and residents continue to see a return on their investment in digital transformation.