News Opinion

How technology will shape the future of health and social care

Paul Patarou, Head of Strategic Projects – Health and Social Care, Access Group

From artificial intelligence and machine learning to big data and the Internet of Things, technology will not only change the way we do business but also how we approach health and social care in the years to come.

As many of you know, I’m a big believer in technology to support organisations where it’s best placed for the job. After all, our time is better spent on the human interactions and activities that count.

What’s interesting to me, is the rapid advancements being made and the direction in which technology is heading – particularly in health and social care. There are many great projects taking place and there seems to be a real effort to find answers to the care crisis and health issues that are so often talked about.

Smarter care

In ‘Eight technologies that will change health and care1, The King’s Fund talks about everything from smart apps and assistive technologies that track patient/client mood and alert health professionals to sophisticated ‘diagnostic and treatment technologies’, peer-to-peer support networks and community groups.

Technology can be used to connect people and deliver remote care and assistance in new and innovative ways. A simple example could be a smartphone used to gain medical advice or on-demand visits from care workers.

It could monitor medicine intake, adapt ‘algorithms for insulin delivery to a person’s physiology’ in the case of diabetes and help professionals offer support at just the right time. The opportunities are immense.

Smart pills and implantable drug delivery could ensure that people are getting the right dosage of drugs and that medications aren’t missed. Assistive technologies might provide help around the house such as software on a mobile device or sensors that could switch on a light, answer the phone or alert care providers to a client problem. Whether touch, voice or retina enabled, smart technologies have the scope to support people dealing with difficult personal circumstances.

However, smart technologies won’t just track individual health. They’ll be used to collate group-level data for research purposes. The use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in health and care is one aspect that’s getting a lot of attention. IBM Watson, for example, can work with large unstructured datasets – such as clinical guidelines – and help optimise treatment for diseases like cancer or other serious conditions.

Real life examples

There are many interesting case uses that continue to emerge. Some no doubt will be more successful others – the important thing is that we continue to explore to find new ways that technology can support us or solve big problems.

Hampshire County Council2 for instance, ran a trial using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition software and Echo home speakers to help care for older people in their homes. This included reminding them to stay hydrated as they move around their home or allowing them to ask about their medication.

The Local Government Association3 backed digital projects to assist people to stay in their homes longer. After all, this is what most people want for their loved ones (it’s often the client’s wish as well).

There have been many other great initiatives too including Harrow Council’s use of Watson Care Manager4 cognitive technology to personalise, assist in choices of home care as well as monitoring the care they receive – and ensure that efficiencies are data driven.

Positive social care

As the use cases increase, along with further technological advancements, so the benefits for health and social care will increase too. It’s my firm belief that it’ll allow us to deliver better services and outcomes, reduce waste, control costs – and give clients flexible care provision. Being able to ‘predict’ health outcomes and use ‘actionable’ technology to provide a better service will allow clients to stay in their homes for longer.

Considering the pressure on health and social care, we must think differently and take a different approach. This is not about technology for technology’s sake but how it can help us solve the problems that we face in health and social care. The key is to use technology to improve outcomes for everyone.

 

Sources:

Eight technologies that will change health and care: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/eight-technologies-will-change-health-and-care

Hampshire plans Alexa trials for social care: http://www.ukauthority.com/UKA-Local-Digital/entry/7449/hampshire-plans-alexa-trials-for-social-care

LGA backs 16 digital social care projects: http://www.ukauthority.com/UKA-Local-Digital/entry/7337/lga-backs-16-digital-social-care-projects

Harrow brings in cognitive technologies to improve social care: http://www.ukauthority.com/health-care/entry/6484/harrow-brings-in-cognitive-technologies-to-improve-social-care

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