The growth in our older adult population is something to celebrate, people are living for longer and ‘ageing well’ has been recognised as a focus for the NHS Long Term Plan. The flip side of this is that we have already begun to see the strain of increased care needs. As we see no immediate relief, the sector must embrace innovation and adapt to new care delivery models.
With a shift in focus to prevention, the NHS has recognised the need to improve community care and early detection, keeping people at home for as long as possible. The development of care models will allow service users to move from hospital-based care to home based care, freeing up beds and costs that are vitally needed. Historically, we’ve become experts at delivering isolated episodic care solely dealing with the immediate symptoms, but an integrated community approach is the only way to truly achieve a person-centred outcomes-based approach.
Delivering a new systems approach will not be easy, however embracing technology innovation can help make it happen. As a care tech provider for 20 years, we’ve recognised the need to continually innovate, moving from simple visit monitoring to outcomes-based approaches using environmental and wearable sensors to provide a more holistic view of the service user. As tech innovation accelerates the opportunities to deliver new system models becomes more reachable. However, the cultural change needed is more significant and challenging, requiring an end-to end change in the commissioning and delivery of care.
A key change needed is information sharing. All care providers need to be transparent with their care delivery, sharing data to create a truly person-centred care record that a service user can access and control. Health and social care must integrate more, allow information to seamlessly flow and provide this at the point of need wherever that may be.
As telecoms networks grow exponentially, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the use of wearable and home-based sensors, will soon become the norm. Virtual doctors are already a reality and “do-it-yourself” health screening tests enable people to self-diagnose without visiting a physical GP. Technology innovation can revolutionise the delivery of health and social care but the industry must break traditional models and embrace change to reap the rewards.
Frontline care workers will also benefit from new technology, with cost efficiencies and improved quality driving higher job satisfaction and economic value. Access to shared health and social care data alongside the IoT sensors will provide a more rounded view of the service user, enabling better and faster decisions on their care. Mobile technology will eradicate manual paper work, providing real-time information, more time to care and improved safeguarding. As artificial intelligence enters our world, robotics will support care workers with their daily care routines; heavy lifting; medication management and health checks.
Through all of this, you’d imagine elderly people would struggle with technology, however we’ve found the opposite. They are willing and eager to learn and can see immediate benefits. For example, wearing an electronic activity tracker as part of our falls prevention solution (ARMED) has motivated service users to be more active and they are proud to share this data with friends and family.
As an industry, we all need to work together to embrace technology and find solutions that ultimately provide a benefit to the end user. As Bill Gates once said: “By giving us comprehensive access to our personal medical information, digital technology can make us all agents for change, capable of pushing for the one thing that we all really care about: A medical system that focusses on our lifelong health and prioritises prevention as much as it does treatment.”
Mark has worked in the social care technology sector for over 10 years and for the last 5 years he’s led the commercial team at HAS Technology (formally CM2000) encompassing new business development, account management and project delivery. Through this he’s had extensive customer-facing experience to understand the challenges being faced by care Providers and Commissioners.