How technology is transforming social care
When people think of technology within the health sector, they often overlook the amazing things happening with care-related tech. This article goes into what's going on.
When we talk about technology in the Department of Health and Social Care, we tend to focus on the health side of things. That’s not because there’s nothing to be said about the latter; the world of social care tech is far from boring. But due to the structure of the department and the flow of funding, the relevant conversations tend to revolve around healthtech.
Yet, this isn’t an area we should overlook. One of the key aims from the NHS Long Term Plan refers to the unification of health and social care, so it’s crucial for suppliers to understand how technology is evolving the sector as a whole.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the ways in which technology and related digital services are transforming social care.
Transformation goals in social care
Firstly, as detailed in the Local Government’s Association’s report, Transforming social care through the use of information and technology, the current digital innovations in social care involve:
Integrating services and information for children, families and adults
This initiative involves creating a single, joined-up view of a patient, creating a “shared care record” to be accessed by care professionals. Relatedly, services will become more connected through improved information sharing, helping to identify people at risk and “support preventative-based approaches to care”
Enabling people to interact with care services through digital channels
Related to the above, the goal is for citizens and their carers to interact with services through digital channels that work for them, taking ownership of their own care and care for others.
Promoting independence and wellbeing through the use of digital services and technology
Here the aim is for citizens and carers to utilise digital technologies at home or in care settings, promoting independence in their care. This involves providing choice in the sharing of information, linking such data to citizen records.
Integrating commissioning through the improved use of information and analysis
This involves linking the care-related activity and relevant cost information, anonymising information to be “used to enhance commissioning intelligence”. The ultimate goal of this is to allow commissioners to improve care outcomes for citizens by having access to the most accurate data.
Enabling care professionals to work from any base at any time
Mobility in care work is key, and so technology is vital in enabling care professionals to work from numerous locations within multi-disciplinary teams, sharing information safely and quickly. This goal also relates to allowing professionals to interact securely with one another, creating a more collaborative approach to care.
It’s safe to say that the government have big plans for digital transformation in this sector. But how are these goals being delivered?
The technology solutions that are making it happen
Below are just some examples of the many technologies and digital services that are driving transformation in social care.
Care records and data sharing platforms are already having an impact in social care by preventing individuals who are involved in social care systems from repeating themselves, and providing the critical information at the point of care when it’s needed. For example, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have recently created a partnership comprising of 17 organisations, in which citizen data is securely shared and updated on a real-time basis.
The introduction and rollout of e-Referrals throughout the NHS has been fundamental in beginning to improve communication between health and social care. Cumbria is an example of an area who have successfully implemented electronic referrals, now running over 1,000 a month.
Telecare and wearables
Examples of such solutions include GPS devices, fall detectors and bed or chair sensors. Wearables are absolutely essential in helping to improve the quality of life of, for example, elderly people who live alone. According to the LGA report, “currently 27 per cent of adult social care packages include a telecare component and this is expected to grow to 35 per cent by March 2017.” In short, watch this space.
Where the money comes from
Funding comes from a number of places, such as NHS Digital’s Social Care Digital Innovation Programme, through which waves of funding are provided to various councils by the LGA and NHS Digital to procure and develop innovative social care technology. The ultimate goals of the programme involve improving digital maturity in the sector, and create a more interoperable health and social care system.
For further details about digital transformation projects that this programme is currently funding, take a look at their interactive map.
Caretech supplier opportunity
Overall, the social care sector is undergoing digital transformation at an impressive speed, which will fundamentally alter the way in which social care is delivered.
So, for suppliers of relevant services, a huge opportunity awaits to aid the sector’s transformation. The great news is that routes to market focused solely on caretech do exist, such at the YPO Care Technology DPS, which opened this month and is set to run until October 2020. It’s expected that £250,000,000 worth of business will be put through the DPS over its lifetime, so if you provide a social care technology or related service, you certainly don’t want to miss out!