Sophie Taysom, a member of the IET Healthcare Sector Executive Committee, kicked off the webinar by highlighting the relationship between our homes and our health. Homes include independent living as well as supportive care environments. COVID-19 has reshaped the delivery of healthcare to ensure that people get the care they need and brought to the spotlight real issues related to the built environment.
Shirley Ayres began the conversation by addressing how COVID-19 has brought many challenges and opportunities in such a short period of time. What is important now is that we take full advantage of all the engineering and technological advances which aim to improve our quality of life at every age. It should be normal that all care settings provide internet access and support for residents and staff. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has accelerated this, but staff shortages have meant many families have not been able to use technology to keep connected with loved ones in care. What we need are affordable, ecologically friendly, well-designed homes which take advantage of advances in engineering, new building materials and technology designed for the new normal.
Dai Roberts continued the topic by looking at digital transformation in care homes. In response to COVID-19, a support package for care homes was established called the Digital Care Home Programme. This programme aims to embed local strategic plans, provide a system-wide view and incorporate digital tools. Across GM’s, there are numerous variations in the care arrangements between care homes and health care. There is also relative digital poverty in the care home setting especially in contrast to healthcare. Dai then shared details of the COVID-19 Care Home Tracker. This digital tool is an effective communication method for the carer to ensure that individual residents needs are met. Data that is reported and communicated from the carer to clinicians, allows recommendations and decisions directly from clinicians in a short period of time. Digital support packs will embed the practice of using data to guide and influence direct-resident care and associated quality improvement work, such as documentation and record-keeping.
Shirley Hall shared her experiences from the ExtraCare village, a modern alternative to nursing and care homes. Its mission is to create sustainable communities that provide homes older people want, lifestyles they can enjoy and care if it’s needed. These innovative apartments have sensors, smart speakers, home systems with heating, appliances, memory aids, security, and more. Partnering with smart technology, residents can borrow assistive technology appliances for a set period of time to test the benefits. She also highlighted some of the issues during COVID-19 that they faced such as healthcare decisions made remotely, supporting residents in isolation, a lack of IT skills, and support activities by video conferencing. Some of the solutions to the issues included Wi-Fi boosters, using IT volunteers to lend their skills, exercises and activities via Zoom, street bingo and more.
Lastly, Lee Fordham provided a different perspective from an architect’s point of view. With the objective to design life-enhancing sustainable architecture, whilst reducing energy, carbon, cost, and improving wellbeing, he introduced the concept of Passivhaus. Passivhaus is a rigorous energy standard that achieves a significant reduction in energy consumption. Developed in Germany through several research projects in response to concerns that buildings were not performing as predicted by thermal modelling, it ensures that energy, comfort, evidence-based, and quality assurance standards are met. To achieve Passivhaus you must meet a series of technical standard, model the building using PHPP and undergo a rigorous certification process. This provides a holistic approach to looking at homes and our health.