Video connection decreased loneliness and increased safety
Advanced technology has a supportive function, bringing new possibilities for the elderly living at home and for their home care. The city of Helsinki tested video phones in home care. Both the nurses’ and the elderly’s experiences of using the technology were very positive.
Video conference technology was tested in home care as a support for daily care and security services. The participants in the 18-month experiment included Forum Virium Helsinki, Helsinki Home Care, the Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research (CKIR) of the Aalto University School of Economics, and Tunstall.
– Various technological tools have been tested before. Now the technology is advanced enough to be easy and sound, says Petra Turkama, researcher at the Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research (CKIR) at the School of Economics.
The results show that the video connection decreased feelings of loneliness and increased feelings of safety among the elderly. The greatest benefit was found to be increased social interaction. An elderly person commented that it felt like the person on the screen was present in the same room.
According to researcher Petra Turkama, the increased social contact seemed to be more important than treatment during this phase of the pilot project. It was visible, for example, in the fact that the elderly themselves contacted the home care.
Better service with video phone
The experiment was based on the needs of the elderly and the nurses. – The elderly could contact home care themselves and choose the moment in which to talk to the nurses. It was appreciated because it preserved dignity. It makes a difference whether one talks with the nurse over a cup of coffee or, for example, during a bath, says Turkama.
The nurses, on the other hand, wanted to balance the peak hours (e.g. in the morning, which is the busiest time in home care). Moreover, visiting the elderly is more expensive and takes more time than calling. – The impact of the device on physical and mental well-being is, of course, difficult to measure. Instead, costs are easier to measure, and it was observed that the device decreased visits to the elderly, says Turkama.
The video phone consists of a touch screen and only one button. By pushing the button, one can contact the home care. The touch screen is easy to use, and the elderly did not hesitate to use the technology. The feedback shows it was easy to talk via the screen.
Peace of mind for both the elderly and the family
According to the nurses, the video connection especially helps in anticipation and preventive action. The device also improved work organisation. Virtual visits complement the home care service, but in some cases they can even reduce or replace traditional home visits.
The results show that the use of the device has increased the meaningfulness of the elderly’s everyday life and brought them peace of mind. This was visible in the decrease in emergency visits. The device increased home care’s maintenance role.
Furthermore, the video phone made it easier for the friends and family to contact the elderly and also brought them peace of mind. The aim is to bring the video phone into wider use already next year.
The service logics of public services are changing
The project is part of a larger service change that is currently occurring in the public services. Their activities will increasingly resemble the services provided by companies, where the definition of services is business-based and the activities become more effective. Of course, no compromises in the quality of the services will be made.
Turkama says this change in services is a separate research area in CKIR. She states that it is important to be aware of the change, which is always difficult.
Home care includes the logic of care, and nurses have a strong identity. Helsinki home care will not change the service process, but they will buy the service from Palmia, which already provides emergency services and food. However, the logic of service will change because Palmia's activities are business-based.
Information on the research is also available in a book called Towards Peer-Production in Public Services, which is published by the Aalto Service Factory.