When I started working in the Technology Enabled Care sector over five years ago, I remember the first thing to strike me was the stigma associated with the equipment. This equipment had the potential to save someone’s life (often it does), however so many people who used emergency pendants or similar products were ashamed and embarrassed by them.
The result was that so many pendants would end up in a draw or speech units would be hidden behind curtains. Therefore inevitably when the unexpected happened, the equipment would be out of reach and the impact could be devastating.
It amazed me that people could be so embarrassed of equipment that could save their life, but to be honest I could understand their point of view. The beige box appearance fails to meet any principle of good design, it isn’t discreet, nor does it fit with modern décor and overall it doesn’t meet the needs of the customer. I would probably be hiding this equipment myself.
Five years on and it is here that I have found digital to make such an important breakthrough. Equipment and services are now being designed that meet the needs and expectations of the user.
A large reason for this is that new digital equipment we are using no longer just has a singular purpose. As with the trends in mobile phones and tablets, we are now able to integrate a number of services and feature into the equipment. Built-in video means residents can video call each other and see who is at the door before allowing entry. The integration of video and the large screen means the equipment resembles that of an ipad, and the result is that residents are actually looking to show-off their new technology as opposed to burying it in a draw. For Housing Providers this technology can really become a point of differentiation.
These are exciting times as people will start to engage with health and care technology more, and they will continue to drive the market forward. There are endless benefits of digital equipment but for me, it means the sector can now catch-up with the rest of the world and start meeting customer expectations.
Digital technology has been a long time coming but in my opinion it has been well worth the wait. The first thing that strikes you is the quality of the equipment, its modern stylish look would not look out of place in any plush apartment in canary wharf. The ability for residents to communicate internally via the system both visually and verbally enhances its usefulness and in the modern age helps to promote communication, social interaction and wellbeing. This combined with the functionality for each apartment to call independently and in a timely manner are key selling points.
From a monitoring perspective the ability to receive calls without the need to “dial up” or “queue” improves the customer experience and in situations where seconds may be vital it will enable us to get the necessary support on site that little bit quicker resulting in speedier resolutions for what are potentially life critical situations.
The quality of speech on calls has drastically improved as you would expect from a broadband connection as opposed to a traditional analogue line. On these calls we no longer experience the dial tones associated with the older types of equipment, and have seen a marked reduction in background noise which is a welcome relief for the call handling team, and enables them to deal with calls in a more efficient manner.
What will the future bring? Well the possibilities are nearly endless, our monitoring centre is able to handle digital calls and data. As a result we are seeing the integration of a wider range of technology, providing individuals with a choice of services to meet their changing needs.
With strains on our healthcare services we are expecting to see much greater use of our services to support people to leave hospital earlier or have basic procedures completed without the need to attend an outpatient appointment.
All of this means the role of an emergency operator in our monitoring centre is changing and adapting to new technology. Our operators are becoming incredibly skilled, handling more types of data and information, however we will always continue to be the calm, reassuring and life-saving voice when needed.