A new search website has been designed which aims to free up hospital beds and make better, “more efficient” use of care homes.
Bed Finder is a centralised property search site being trialled in Hertfordshire, which allows people in need of a bed and their carers to search for care homes in their area.
“Simple” to navigate
The search site has been designed by health and social care digital consultancy OLM Systems, and is currently being used by the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HCPA). It aims to be “simple” to navigate with “few buttons” to make it easier for older people to use, OLM Systems product manager Aby Atilola says.
It can also be used by local authorities working with hospitals, which need to find spaces for those requiring follow-up respite care after leaving medical care.
Care homes can also register with the site and update their details as soon as a room becomes free.
The site is currently free for the public and for care homes to use. Local authorities pay for the system, so NHS trusts within that area can use it free of charge.
Similar to “booking.com or rightmove.co.uk”
After registering, the homepage includes a search engine allowing users to search by distance and length of stay, “in a similar user experience to rightmove.co.uk or booking.com”, says Atilola.
A choice of care homes appears, and users can then refine their search further with desired facilities such as room size, proximity to shops, availability of a garden, whether there’s a doctor on site, whether they cater for people with dementia and long or short-term stay.
Users then request a space in a care home, and will receive an accept or reject response from the care provider “within a few minutes”, says Atilola. The developers are currently developing a feature that will also allow users to save a search and send it with somebody else, such as a family member or friend.
Patients “spend hours on the phone”
“Normally, carers and patients have to spend hours on the phone checking for vacancies,” Atilola says. “This gives them an immediate response so improves the efficiency of finding a vacancy.”
OLM Systems also hopes the site will help to prevent bed-blocking in hospitals – where patients stay in hospital too long because of a shortage of suitable care elsewhere – as it will “speed up” the process of looking for care home vacancies for NHS trusts.
It also aims to help care homes fill their spaces immediately, so preventing them from losing money and enabling them to “make their overheads”, she adds.
The online system aims to give patients “more choice”, she adds, by allowing them to target their search and offering them price comparison between homes. It also aims to counter existing care home site where “vacancies are out of date”, or where availability is not listed online at all.
Herts Care Bed Finder launches for the public in Hertfordshire on 30 March. There are currently no plans to roll it out nationwide, but there is “discussion” around extending it to neighbouring counties, according to HCPA.