Opinion

Driving innovations in care

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England

Technology has revolutionised every part of our lives. If we look back 30 years, the telephone rather than email was the major form of communication, and we did not have smart phones. Now all the access to information is at our fingertips.

Despite this revolution affecting many parts of our lives, one sector that has been slow to embrace technology is the care sector. In part this has been because we are very much a people to people sector, and it is relationship-based care that is the cornerstone of everything that we do. However, this must not be used as an excuse not to embrace technology because there are many ways in which the technological revolution can improve the quality of care that we offer to the people we support, and vastly improve the efficiency of our organisations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the lack of data within our sector, and it is data that will be increasingly important in developing care and helping us to plan our futures.

Electronic care planning can really help us, not only to deliver more real-time care planning, but it will also help us to collate data that can be the cornerstone of developing our futures. Prior to the pandemic, I was in a care home which had got a brilliant system of electronic care planning. This system meant that when I was having a drink with a resident, the care staff could easily identify how much fluid the person had consumed and put this directly into the care plan. This system ensured that there were up-to-date records of what the resident was consuming, but they could also make sure that any changes in the normal patterns of the person’s life could be identified, and support delivered in a preventative way.

The use of data can be seen as really helpful in supporting individuals. If you collate all the individual data, you will also see a much bigger picture, which will then be used for the development and planning of future care services.

As well as care planning,  there are also a range of ways in which technology can be used to improve the quality of care and deliver more independence. I recently saw a great care home that had embraced technology and had a pressure systems on the bed so that people could be alerted if somebody got up in the night. There were also wonderful systems whereby a tunnel of light was activated so that people could move towards their bathroom safely. These technologies can be transformational, and they are not hugely expensive to install.

One of the biggest impediments to the care sector when embracing technology is the challenge of how to fund it. Sadly, years of underfunding have left us in a position where it is not easy to find the money for investments, even when those investments may produce more efficiencies, and in the long run, cost savings.

I believe we should develop a technology fund that  would be available for the care sector, this would really speed up how we use technology and get the benefits of this for everyone.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Government has committed to building back better and stronger, and for the care sector this has to mean much more engagement with technology. If we could have a technology and innovation fund, I am confident that both care providers and indeed technology developers, would produce many new and innovative ways in which we can support care providers to deliver high-quality care.

Technology is changing all our lives and there is one thing about the technological revolution that we must all acknowledge, and that is its inevitability. Faced with the reality of technological change we can respond in one of two ways. Either we can let it overwhelm us and we will always be behind the curve, alternatively, we can embrace technology and drive the agenda, and this will have the benefits to the people we support and to the organisations we run.

Care England has a specialist digital group which helps discuss issues as well as gathering and imparting best practice. We aim to give providers the tools they need to continue to deliver high-quality care to the frontline.

 

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