Blackwood leads the way in innovative care with SMART Technology

Trials are currently underway in Blackwood’s care home in Stirling where some high tech but easy to use solutions are set to improve the independence of the residents as well as help the staff deliver a fantastic care service!

One of Scotland’s leading housing and care providers, Blackwood has a long standing reputation for leading the way in terms of innovation in independent living. Broom Court in Stirling is home to one of Blackwood’s four care homes and is currently evolving to incorporate some 

fantastic SMART technology as part of day to day life.

Colin Foskett, Head of Innovation at Blackwood said:


Our smart technology project is one of the most exciting and innovative projects that we have worked on to date. By putting our customers at the centre of the design process we are shaping a technology enabled care system that will improve people’s independence and help them control how their own care is delivered. Working with our customers and staff this truly person centred approach is already delivering some exciting outcomes. As we develop the technology further over the coming year we will be adding to the services so that not only can our customer control their care but communicate with their family and friends, monitor their health and control their home as well as take advantage of all the benefits that the internet brings.”


Sounds exciting! But what is it?


Following discussions with the residents in the care home, each one of them had a personal communication device installed in their room. Pamela Hay, Telecare Implementation Coordinator at Blackwood, played a key part at this stage.


“The first thing I had to do was get to know the residents. Then I had to find out what people’s needs were, what they would benefit from with SMART Technology, and also where they would want their device installed in their rooms. But in the beginning it was really a case of getting to know people”.


The most succinct way to describe the device is a very simple touch screen monitor with buttons on it that include ‘Alert’, ‘Ask for Help’ but also more personalised things like ‘Photos’ and ‘Games’.


Functions are being installed bit by bit to give people time to familiarise themselves with how it all works. In time, each individual resident will be able to personalise the icons on their screen to reflect their own interests and preferences. One Resident, Marion Paton, is very keen on knitting and poetry and has already requested that her device have icons linking to relevant webpages. Another resident, Ian, loves football and wants to be able to check news, updates and scores.


Some of the more care orientated functions can connect residents to members of staff in seconds via the video link system installed on the device. If a call comes in, a member of staff can respond on a mobile phone (using a private app) where they will be able to see and speak with the person, enabling them (should they be occupied with someone else) to assess the urgency of the call and act accordingly. Individual devices have also been installed in communal areas.


“The feedback I’ve been getting has been really positive” says Kirsteen Meechan, Assistant Services Manager at Broom Court. “I’m really impressed with how the residents have taken to it” she adds citing in particular the virtual bowling game that everyone has been enthusiastically playing.


In fact this is a recurring theme I find when speaking with residents, a significant proportion of whom have never used any kind of digital technology before.

With this in mind Blackwood has recently taken on a Digital Skills Trainer. Since taking up the post Shawn More has been working closely with staff and residents alike to ensure the transition to SMART Technology is as easy as possible for everyone, saying:


“Our staff are passionate about delivering exceptional care and support to our residents and we have made good progress in staff training sessions in terms of further developing their digital literacy skills. We have tailored training sessions to our residents’ needs and requirements, most of whom have never used a computer before and over the next few weeks we will continue to capture the learning journey of our residents in one-to-one sessions”.


Getting technical


Getting to this point has taken a huge amount of planning and preparation from all perspectives, not least of all the technical side. Colin Foskett along with Blackwood’s Business Solutions department have been working closely with BT and Soft Orange, a software company based in the Netherlands, to develop and perfect the ins and outs of SMART Technology. Head of Business solutions Kelvin Aston sheds some light on the work that is being put in:


“We collaborated with BT to install Wi-Fi across the whole of Broom Court, which obviously is going to be a huge benefit to everyone on the development, not just the care customers. On top of this Business Solutions has been identifying suitable hardware for staff and tenants to use. And we’ve been working with Soft Orange to ensure that all the software and hardware are compatible to ensure stability and reliability. We’re also looking at the resilience of the system overall. So for instance if Wi-Fi should suddenly go down for some reason then 3G will automatically kick in”.


How will it improve the lives of residents?


General feedback from the residents at Broom Court indicates that the SMART technology is being warmly welcomed and people are slowly learning to use the new system.  Several residents have stated that the video messaging function will be great when it is installed as it will enable them to regularly see family who live far away and cannot visit very often.


“They’re all quite excited” Pamela continues saying, “Some people are a little bit like ‘Oh! I’ll never be able to work this’ but they are still really excited. They’re asking for films to be put on it, they’re asking me for music. Someone was asking me to put Westerns on it the other day. They really see the potential for what they can do with it. It’s amazing because many of the residents had never even touched a computer, but their confidence has just soared!”


Nonetheless there will be glitches to fix along the way and this is why Blackwood is working in close contact with everyone at Broom Court. Marion said “I’m getting more confident using it but a keyboard might be better for some things”. And depending on ability some people will adapt faster than others to the new system. This is all part of the trial faze. “One of our biggest challenges” Shawn says, “is helping people get used to technology that they are not familiar with on a daily basis. The staff almost all have some level of digital skills whereas for most of the residents it will be their first time using a computer, so everyone is coming in from a different level.”


How are staff reacting to SMART Technology?


In spite of some initial ambiguity towards the system the staff now seem to be taking to it quite well. When the possible benefits are laid out clearly, most people become very enthusiastic.


Pamela Hay said that “The staff have a little more apprehension but overall they have been very supportive, especially in front of the residents. Everybody can see the benefits and the potential.”


Linda Strathie, Assistant Service Manager at Broom Court, noted a slight glitch with screens coming back on when they’ve been put to sleep (which the technical team is now aware of and is looking to fix) but otherwise appreciative of the improvement the innovation will make to service delivery. “We’re a lot more at ease [for Shawn’s digital training sessions], and I think it will improve the service”. Her colleague, Liz, is in agreement and says “it sounds quite straight forward and with people supporting one another [to learn how to use the system] that will really help”.


Linda also points out how the webcam will be useful, citing the case of a particular resident. “He has to wear a device on his face when he sleeps to help with his breathing. If it comes loose or he removes it in his sleep it triggers an alarm and a member of staff has to quickly go to his room to check on him. 9 times out of 10 though he just nudged it in his sleep and it’s perfectly fine. With this new system we’d be able to check on our phones and see if he genuinely needs assistance.”


Progress at Broom Court is ongoing, and with Dundee already having been identified as the setting for the next trial, the team will be taking what they’ve learned with them for this next stage in what is undoubtedly an exciting time for Blackwood. 


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