For many years, the care sector has been talking about going digital, but the speed of progress on this objective has been relatively slow. The reasons for this are many and varied, they include the cost of investment, the training and development needs of staff, and the fact that the regulator has never really embraced digital as a part of care. I have heard of many instances where the regulator arrives in a digitalised service and demands to see the paper copies of everything.
However, adversity often speeds up development and change, and we see this often when societies are at war, because of our current position, where we are at war with a deadly virus, we have seen many of the things that used to take a long time suddenly being seen as normal practice.
Our current situation really shows the need for very quick transfer of information and this has led to many more care providers getting access to NHS mail. The way in which this enables us to transfer information seamlessly across the system is bound to be of benefit to people who use services and also to care providers. In the past, we often had to wait a significant amount of time before somebody’s notes arrived at the care home after they have been discharged from hospital and hopefully this new system will stop that from happening.
Another benefit of digitalised services is that it improves efficiency and provides a very good audit trail for when you are asked to give evidence of the quality of your care. Digitalised care planning is becoming much more the norm in social care services and with these digital systems comes the ability to easily access care plans, place evidence that they have been delivered and also in many cases the access they afford to families and loved ones is another way of the care provider proving that they have delivered a good quality service that supports the individual needs of the person using this service.
There is another benefit to go digital and that is the data that it produces. The 21st-century will be the century of data. For too long social care has been behind the curve in collating data that will enable us to refine our services and plan for the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a move towards digital and also produced opportunities for us to share data that will help us when we are thinking about social care reform and planning our futures.
The digital revolution that is currently taking place in social care will provide us with a foundation for the future. If we use digital properly it will improve outcomes for the people who use services, it will improve efficiency for the people who provide services and it will deliver a better experience for everyone in our sector.