The pressures on the adult social care sector require a radical review in how we provide life changing support to people who access care. The need to provide innovation and technology development to address some of the challenges is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a crucial part of ensuring we meet the challenges ahead as a society.

The Government, social care providers and the public face a historic opportunity to learn from the lessons of the pandemic, place the long-awaited reform of social care at the top of the political agenda, and utilise both existing and emerging technology to drive innovation in the sector and deliver both current and new benefits for end users.

To ensure we’re able to truly integrate health and social care, innovate care provision, and enable people who access care and support to become active participants in decisions that impact their lives, we must consider investment in technology. This in turn will ensure citizens benefit from better standards of care, social benefits are identified and embedded into society, and the system becomes more effective and better able to avoid the use of high-cost services.

Existing solutions already have an array of benefits which have been demonstrated during the pandemic. From Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) which enabled a reduction in the risk of cross-infection, and telecare supporting earlier discharge from hospitals of people living with chronic conditions, to an increase in the adoption of wearables which supports proactive and person-centred care. These benefits have supported social care providers in their ongoing mission to not only care for people living with chronic conditions, but those who contracted Covid-19. 

The latest cutting-edge data driven technology is able to respond to incidents and predict illnesses, while also preventing them from happening in the first place. Data can be taken from multiple sources, including motion sensors, smartphones, wearables and recordings, to provide a clear picture of the risks someone faces and alert their caregivers to respond if necessary. 

These new approaches using technology can benefit end users as we move beyond the pandemic. A reduction in the need to travel to appointments with clinicians or carers, real time data provision, and a reduction in hospitalisation will all improve the outcomes for users, reduce costs, and enable more effective care provision. These benefits are only a hint of how the social care sector could be streamlined and strengthened if innovation and technology is placed at the heart of Government plans.

Placing focus on innovation to allow teams to develop more sophisticated technology and encouraging a change in behaviour with both caregivers and people that access care and support, will build on the successes of telecare and remote health monitoring which were deployed during the pandemic and develop more person-centred, proactive care. This will also ensure that customers and people who access care and support experience real-world benefits and the ability to live a healthier and more independent life.

New technology must be developed with the upcoming analogue to digital switchover in mind. This will support Government plans and allow TEC solution providers to innovate in the sector to create a more robust and faster infrastructure, equipment status alerts, and greater capacity to cope with increasing demand for broadband and WiFi.

Innovation across sectors is propelling as emerging technology accelerates and social care must be amongst them. To move forward to the next generation of social care which realises its true potential, the digital transition must be included in innovation strategies. This will ensure we develop a world-leading social care system, create consistency across the country to improve outcomes for people who access care and support and ensure all TEC users are accounted for. 

With the right frameworks in place, the sector can develop a holistic approach which focuses on individuals, their choices, and their health and care, with care delivered more effectively leading to improved outcomes.

Investment in technology within social care is investment in infrastructure which will enable the sector to reconfigure and integrate with other services. It’s essential that care providers and people who access care and support are involved in the digital transformation of our services if the sector is to innovate, embrace technology successfully, and deliver new approaches which create benefits for people in a post pandemic world.

Gary Steen, CTO at Tunstall Healthcare

Tunstall Healthcare are welcome sponsors of ADASS which furthers our charitable objectives.