Care technology (telecare) services can play a key role in reducing the cost of care, particularly when aligned to preventive or strengths based approaches. As care technology experts we help local authorities to understand the quality of their existing telecare service, providing objective assessments of the potential to deliver significant financial benefits alongside better outcomes for service users.
We see the same mistakes being made by local authorities in their approach to care technology; here are the top five:
Mistake 1: No strategic focus
If you have no care technology strategy there is probably no connection between what you hope to achieve with technology and the actions of your social care teams. So, having a clear, published strategy for care technology is necessary, but not sufficient, to deliver an effective service.
Even in organisations where care technology strategies exist awareness can be low; care technology just isn’t on everyone’s radar. In best practice sites, the top team is passionate about the part technology should play within the social care offer and they use every opportunity to drive the message home.
Mistake 2: The care practitioner experience is forgotten
If the care practitioner’s experience of referring for care technology is time-consuming and frustrating, they will make fewer referrals, period.
We often encounter long forms that ask for reams of non-essential information that the care practitioner cannot easily supply. Frequently, they are also expected to specify which ‘boxes and wires’ each service user should receive. This requires a good, up-to-date knowledge of care technology devices; not a core skill for your average social worker.
Poor communication is often cited as a discouragement to refer. Referrers may hear nothing for weeks or may never be informed of what technology solution, if any, was installed for their service user.
Mistake 3: Neglecting the need to change the culture
Running the odd optional training course and publicising a few examples where care technology has delivered positive outcomes is not enough to permanently change the behaviour of care practitioners.
To achieve this requires a coordinated and sustained change programme. In best practice cases, the mainstreaming of care technology is part of a wider transformation programme that gives due weight to training and engagement and then actively supports care practitioners to work in the desired new ways.
Mistake 4: Focus on equipment not outcomes
There is a tendency to be distracted by the idea that the latest bit of technology will be the silver bullet for social care.
Care practitioners should be sceptical about ‘wonder products’ and instead keep the focus on understanding how service user outcomes can best be achieved. Only when desired outcomes are identified should the choice of how to deliver it be made. Equipment should literally be the last thing to think about.
Mistake 5: Waiting until the end to ask ‘how did it go?’
Care technology can promote independence and safety more cost-effectively that many alternatives, yet when it comes to the annual budget-setting round, Finance colleagues often see it as a ‘nice to have’ service with costs but no benefits. To be able to look back at the end of each year and prove the financial savings care technology has driven, mechanisms for identifying and tracking these must be built in from the beginning.
The ability to demonstrate a positive impact on people’s lives is the most compelling tool that we have to persuade others to exploit the potential of care technology; take a look at what we have achieved: http://bit.ly/1RMDiFc
Steve Carefull and Robert Turnbull are care technology experts; together they run the Argenti Care technology managed services with Hampshire and Barnet councils