Opinion Technology

Putting people at the heart of services

Gary Steen, Chief Technical Officer at Tunstall Healthcare

Innovating our health and social care services through technology is crucial if we are to develop care pathways which engage vulnerable people and enable them to become active participants in their own health and care.

Gary Steen, chief technology officer at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the role of innovation within social care and how it can support engagement with service users.

Citizen-led approaches

Our ageing population means we have no choice but to look at the ways we can deliver care differently in order to cope with increasing demand. Placing citizens at the heart of innovation in health and social care is crucial if we are to engage with them effectively, and create services fit for the future.

It’s vital that we develop a truly joined up, integrated approach where we listen to citizens, understand their everyday needs and work together to bridge gaps in our services and reduce pressure on health and care.

Understanding the solutions that are required and adapting as things change- not to be driven by contracts but by providing solutions- will ensure innovation continues to flourish. We need to go back to a stage before solution building, understanding the problems faced on a daily basis by service users, so we are better placed to  co-design straight-forward and effective solutions.

The latest approaches

Digital innovation can improve citizen experience, support better quality and greater reliability of service provision, and provide enhanced services which are tailored to meet specific needs.

New technology and approaches can benefit end users and drive engagement. For example, there has been an increase in remote patient monitoring (RPM) which enables services to be shaped around the user, rather than being place-based. People are often more engaged in their own health and wellbeing if they are given the tools to do so. In addition RPM means they can remain independent and  in the place of their choosing for longer.

During the pandemic we’ve seen technology like RPM support a reduction in the need to travel to appointments with clinicians or carers, real time data provision, and a reduction in hospitalisation which have improved outcomes for users, reduced costs, and enabled more effective care provision through greater engagement with service users.

Engaging with service users through innovation

When we achieve successful and integrated services for citizens, the benefits flow through the system to primary, secondary, community, social and health care services. If we get our approach right, citizens stay in the place of their choice for longer, delaying entry into residential care and reducing the need for more complex interventions.

Innovative technologies should be clear and easy to use, and have engagement with service users at the forefront of their design. The key to innovation enabling greater engagement with vulnerable people is to use technology to drive collaboration between all stakeholders, such as patients, clinicians, care home operators, and local councils.

More intelligent and predictive solutions can support care providers in informing care planning, and enable service users to be more involved with their care plans from the start. This in turn engages them further with their own care and delivers a greater understanding about the key role they play in supporting their own health and wellbeing.

Looking ahead

Service providers must look to the future of social care through innovation, using services such as telecare and telehealth to help design services around the person, providing preventative, proactive support in the community. This will achieve a system that engages service users and enables them to live independently for longer, and feel empowered to self manage and stay well.

Other challenges remain, such as  the UK’s move from analogue to digital communications network. This will require significant investment from the public sector, however, this also brings a once in a generation opportunity to modernise, improve and shift thinking from a reactive, to a proactive delivery model.

Integration and investment in technology is key to reconfiguring and integrating our services. It’s essential that service providers and end users are involved in the digital transformation if we’re to innovate, embrace technology successfully, and deliver new approaches which create tangible benefits for citizens.

For more information, please visit www.tunstall.co.uk

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