Guest blog: Innovation and smrt: thinking on COVID-19 testing from Optimo Care Group

Guest blog from Richard Walker, CEO of Optimo Care Group.

Optimo Care Group deliver care and support for around 2000 people across the North of England from several registered locations. Richard served on the Board of UKHCA for a number of years and has a passion for innovation and sustainability for all his community based care and support services.

Late last year, homecare providers received the update they had been waiting for, it confirmed that they could finally begin to offer weekly testing to their frontline care and support workers. In terms of steps forward in the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a huge and welcome development, especially given the high numbers of asymptomatic carriers. But how best to collate and understand the resulting data this would require?

I’ve been a homecare provider for more than 25 years, and well versed in the logistical and operational challenges that face all care organisations. Many of these challenges are unique to the homecare sector, dispersed teams, working under strict regulatory requirements, high variability in service requirements, weather and people related factors, I could go on..!

With that in mind, receiving and distributing the tests from Government was actually the easy bit. But we now have a scenario where, in order to keep services and people as safe as possible, the thousands of homecare workers out there need active support and management to ensure they are undertaking the tests correctly and regularly and at the same time organisations need to collate the data and results, both for our internal compliance management and external organisation requirements. LA’s and other bodies are understandably asking for more and more COVID-19 related information.

So, cutting to the chase, we built an app, called it Smrt:Monitor and deployed it to all our individual team members.  In three easy stages and from their mobile device, the user can confidentially submit tests, results and notify us in real time how they are feeling in terms of any symptoms.

The app can alert and report on many aspects, from individual user compliance to an immediate emailed alert if a positive test has been submitted. It also displays a “health badge” on the app, a useful tool for showing to families and clients that displays on screen the status of the last test and the date. It’s a simple but powerful reassurance for our wonderful service users.

We now have real time visibility on all our staff testing and some critical management information that has eliminated a lot of COVID-19 related risks. We now don’t need to ask staff to ring in or email their results, it saves our office teams a whole lot of time and effort.

We’ve added optional features for aggregating and report printing, but importantly for us and our clients and their families, we can immediately see who isn’t testing weekly.

Most staff didn’t need asking twice to get involved and download the app, (it’s on all the well-known app stores). But, to further incentivise, we then added the ability to create payroll information and calculate user payment for the time taken – which saw active user numbers top 90%. It meant we could use our Infection Control Fund (ICF) to pay staff effectively and easily justify and evidence utilisation.  This can be backdated if they want to add retrospective test results.

Smrt:Monitor can also log and track vaccination evidence and our teams are welcome to upload this information if they have chosen to have the vaccination. We are also building out a unique tool to track PPE usage and allocation.

I expect testing will continue for many more months and possibly longer. My teams really don’t need extra admin and data collection, they are busy enough frankly. So to receive critical information from every team member directly saves them time and ultimately makes our service safer.

Right now, as a sector, we really need to innovate and collaborate using our operational insight and develop specific tech based solutions for areas that are not quite so obvious and this is the space that Smrt:Monitor will bring a unique focus.

Why am I writing this blog? Because I think it is a useful tool for already very busy care organisations. We estimate the cost per active user should be around 65p per week, but we are offering the basic version to all UKHCA members free of charge, If you think it might be useful for you, then you just need to register and download it from the link below and make sure you add UKHCA2021 into the redeem code section on the registration page.

You will also find a user guide highlighting the key features etc. All data is securely held on UK servers. We welcome feedback to develop and test the app further.

If you want to discuss, drop me an email. [email protected] Thanks for reading and take care in 2021.