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Sat Navs tipped to transform home care

Advanced in-car navigation systems could revolutionise the delivery of community care, making it more efficient and improving client care and staff safety.

One of Australia’s largest community care providers, Blue Care, is researching the potential of in-car navigation systems and analysing the feasibility of fitting them into the majority of Blue Care community care vehicles.

Blue Care Business Improvement Officer Brent Hodgkinson said that while the study was in its early days, the systems had already shown enormous potential in community care.

“We started the research early in 2008 and will finish at the end of 2009, but already we’re finding a trend where the systems are cutting down travel time by mapping routes between care jobs, reducing anxiety for staff and improving their safety,” Mr Hodgkinson said.

“The results so far provide strong evidence in favour of the use of these units, but there is even greater potential down the track.

“This technology is advancing so rapidly and these systems are becoming more and more capable of handling complex tasks.

“Soon support staff in service centres may be able to communicate directly with care staff using text messages in the in-car navigation systems. Office staff may have the ability to advise care staff straight away if a job is cancelled and map the new route. And they will be able to identify the closest care staff member in an emergency so we can respond more quickly.

“Care staff may also be able to bypass a visit into the support office, and instead download the information they need for the day from home using their in-car navigation system. And there is potential for staff to closely monitor their driving habits so they are aware of their speed and fuel consumption.”

Mr Hodgkinson said that while other providers were also using in-car navigation systems, Blue Care had gone one step further by researching the benefits and the future capabilities of the systems.

“Blue Care is focusing its research on two experimental groups with 24 systems between them, and a control group that uses hardcopy roadmaps.

“Already an interim staff satisfaction survey has recommended using cordless touch screen systems that are resistant to over-heating, and providing in-depth training and post-training support for staff using vehicles fitted with these devices.

“We also need further analysis to conclude if the installation costs are justified by the efficiency, care and safety benefits. We hope to explore this going forward.

Mr Hodgkinson will present the research on behalf of Blue Care at the International Health in Transition Conference in Adelaide later this month.