Designing for Better Elderly Care

Family Long-term Care Centre has just two professional staff members—a nurse and a social worker, and 10 non-professional staff members, to take care of 24 senior citizens. Help was needed. Urgently.

This situation is not uncommon in South Korea where social facilities and care services are trying to catch up with the increasing pressures from a population ageing so rapidly, the speed of which has been described as ‘unprecedented in human history’.

According to the government, nearly one third of South Koreans will be aged 65 or older come 2040. As of 2011, among the OECD member countries reviewed, South Korea has the highest poverty rate among people over 66 years. These facts have far-reaching effects on the ability of older persons to live with dignity.

The Family Long-term Care Centre captures a slice of this reality: its residents have neither income nor families that could take care of them. Located in Seongnam-dong, a 1.5 hour-drive from Seoul, the centre takes in residents with chronic or long-term health issues.

Centres like this face many difficulties, one of which is the shortage of human resources and facilities. The centre’s staff had a hard time coping—on top of being responsible for five or six residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week, medical histories and other information were handwritten, making data management difficult.

The staff knew that upgrading to a good information technology (IT) system would enable consistent and objective data management, and increase efficiency. They have also seen how customised information management systems in larger organisations improve care quality. Dong-hyun Lee, the centre manager, had the idea of developing a proper management solution for the centre, and was looking for ways to fund it.

Microsoft Korea’s Community Affairs Manager Jin Hee Bae, who was looking for nonprofits to work with, said, “I was very impressed by the centre from the outset. Although its IT infrastructure is the poorest among all the nonprofits I’ve seen, the staff had such brilliant ideas that would need little investment to achieve a lot.”

Jin Hee’s team and the centre staff, led by Dong-hyun, decided that Visual Studio, a set of integrated development tools for building applications for Windows, the web and mobile devices, was the most appropriate solution for the centre’s needs.

With Microsoft Korea’s donation of the software, Dong-hyun developed an application called Elderly Long-term Care Management Solution (ELCMS). ELCMS enables those who have little IT knowledge to easily access and use the application, and increase work productivity. Staff can now upload and update patient data easily through smartphones. The nurse and social worker can also quickly and more accurately provide other staff with guidance. The time spent on data reporting has been reduced by one-tenth, and staff now spends more time on providing better care.

A Microsoft team, including a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), also assisted Dong-hyun with any technical and legal issues he faced.

MVP giving advice for the app development.

ELCMS proved to be such a success that the centre wants to make it more sophisticated. Dong-hyun is now working with MVPs who are cloud experts on moving the system to the cloud, and hopes that the centre can receive support in using Windows Azure or Surface devices. Furthermore, he wants to share the application, as well as his experience developing and using it, with other nonprofit organisations.

Jin Hee says, “We want to help the residents by supporting the centre further down the road. ELCMS needs additional support for security and data overload issues, and to improve the use of the system. All of us in South Korea are very concerned with issues older persons face, and we are glad to be able to help, even if in a small way.”

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