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How Covid-19 will change healthcare skills

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​In our last blog post we talked about why a career in health is so rewarding and in a similar vein, our focus this week is on healthcare skills and how they may evolve in the immediate future. There’s no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has changed the world of healthcare – possibly permanently – as professionals have had to adapt to the unknown, and quickly.

There have, of course, been multiple reports of the new skills that many carers are adding to their repertoire, ranging from the light-hearted - such as this carer who turned to hairdressing for residents and even modelled hairstyles for some himself - to the more technical skills needed to tackle Covid-19. Perhaps the most noticeable of these is the increase in use of technology and digital tools to help health and social care professionals interact with patients without exposing anyone to possible contagion.

But with technology changing care as we know it, the skills healthcare professionals need are also adapting.

Virtual patient interaction

With patients unable to access face-to-face consultations and many healthcare professionals needing to keep contact limited to reduce the risks of potentially spreading the disease, technology has certainly come to the fore. Some private healthcare providers such as Bupa had already begun rolling out the likes of Digital GP support, but the Covid-19 outbreak has undoubtedly sped this up.

In fact, more and more patients are embracing video calls with healthcare professionals across both private and public sector implementing this option out of simple necessity. But it’s not just the likes of patient diagnosis where this tool has proven valuable. Care homes across the UK have also tapped into video to help keep residents and their loved ones connected virtually during lockdown. We’ve seen multiple reports of homes setting up Zoom calls so those in their care can still see their family regularly and this will certainly continue for the near future.

While there will be less of a need for this once restrictions are lifted and face-to-face meetings no longer pose a risk to patients, residents and carers, it’s highly likely that video tools will still be used in the health and social care profession now that the benefits have been witnessed first-hand.

Training online

It’s not just some of the day to day activities of healthcare professionals that have been impacted by technology, though. How they access training has also adapted. Naturally training has been difficult due to the limitations on face-to-face interaction, but given that coronavirus is a new disease and treatment has had to evolve during the pandemic, healthcare professionals have had to access training. And they’ve certainly found innovative ways to do this.

A training company in Bristol, for example, has been delivering remote educational programmes to healthcare workers through an immersive training platform. The firm (Virti) had approval from Health Education England to roll out the technology, which uses virtual and augmented technology to recreate the environments that healthcare workers are, or will be, operating in to help them best prepare. This includes getting used to putting on PPE equipment and interacting with patients in a safe and appropriate manner. The technology is also able to objectively assess individuals and provide guidance on how to improve their performance.

Using this training has proven to have a positive impact on staff, with Virti reporting a direct link between the training and an increase in confidence and skills retention of professionals. While wider roll out of this type of tool in health and social care may be further down the line, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

Care home tech developments

But it’s not just ground-breaking technology that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood film that’s changing healthcare skills. In some cases, simple digital developments are making a big difference, particularly across social care. One home in Cambridgeshire, for example, is attributing much of its ability to contain the spread of the virus through its use of technology.

Askham Village Community implemented swift actions as Covid-19 spread across the UK, including an early lockdown and introducing video visiting for families of its residents. But it also made changes to some of its basic digital support to help staff manage during these difficult times. As the home’s Director, Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, revealed in a recent article, communication was of critical importance during the first stages of the outbreak. But, as Nasser explains, given that up to 80% of social care workers don’t have access to an official work email address and much of the information shared in homes relies on person-to-person conversations, flyers and posters, communicating with staff is a challenge to say the least.

In order to address this, Askham Village Community care home began using an instant messaging system called Yapstar that’s suitable for ‘deskless’ organisations. This tool enabled quick and concise communication with staff – including those that were working remotely or self-isolating. Crucially, though, the security that’s been built into the tool meant that sensitive resident information is protected, enabling staff to share the required documentation remotely to ensure the best possible care is provided to those in the home.

The team didn’t just improve communication through technology, though. Nasser also invested in a tool called Alpaka which digitised rotas and provided an online clocking in / out system. This enabled the home’s managers to better control staffing levels and amend rotas on a case-by-case basis where gaps arose due to illness or self-isolation. For staff, they had complete transparency on rotas at the touch of a button.

Healthcare skills: A tech driven future post Covid-19?

While much of these developments have come from simple necessity during the crisis, the benefits that so many have seen across health and social care means we’re likely to see technology continue to play a role post-Covid-19. As Nasser commented in her article, the changes they’ve implemented aren’t temporary:

“Ordinarily, care environments can sometimes be slow to adapt, reluctant to embrace change and disrupt long established processes that have worked well for years. The ongoing pandemic though is likely to have opened a lot of eyes to the possibilities out there. Having introduced new systems so successfully, we’re confident that, once the crisis has passed, our staff will be more welcoming of new innovations and developments. Whilst Covid-19 has been an extremely testing time, we’re reaching for the positives and this is certainly one.”

This will certainly change healthcare skills requirements of the future, but not all change is bad. The tools that are being implemented will alleviate some of the strain on already over-stretched professionals – a move that will certainly be welcome by many.

The WR healthcare team is still providing the same high level of service as ever, despite working remotely. All of our consultants can be reached via their landlines, email, and social media profiles, so if you’re looking to choose a career in healthcare, why not reach out to them?

To find out more, contact us today.