Ben Chance, Head of PAMMS at HAS Technology Group

This year has seen the social care sector face unprecedented challenges and, as we head into winter, these pressures are undoubtedly set to be exacerbated. Seasonal flu and winter viruses already place additional pressures, and with COVID-19 and its associated local lockdowns, this will be an uncertain time for Directors of Adult Social Care.

 

The DHSC’s recently published COVID-19 winter plan echoes many of the challenges identified in ADASS’ own Coronavirus Survey. It seems one of the things the pandemic has taught us is the value of technology and intelligent data to help mitigate risks and proactively target care where it is most needed.

 

Local authorities are having to adapt – and quickly - to enable focus on statutory responsibilities and the delivery of safe, quality care. In the face of the upcoming challenges, having access to real-time data for market oversight and optimising care delivery will be vital.

 

The ADASS Coronavirus response and the COVID-19 winter plan both highlighted the importance of monitoring market sustainability, with the latter reporting that ‘82% of Directors were concerned about the financial viability of at least some of their providers before Covid-19, with more now saying that they are concerned about all providers.’

 

We’ve found that having longitudinal data about financial viability of providers, based on a variety of risk factors, including credit ratings, is the best way to spot trends and enable proactive support. Without technology solutions to pull together all the information and allow easy reporting it can be difficult to keep track of providers beyond those contracted with the Council, making adherence to market shaping (Care Act) responsibilities more challenging.      

 

The ADASS Coronavirus Survey found that ‘A substantial majority of Directors do not believe the National Sitreps give them enough information to manage their local care markets and will continue to collect their own local market information.’ In fact, a staggering 93% of Directors have stated that their Local Authority would continue to collect social care data alongside national agendas.

This confirms our own experience of data collection to support Covid challenges. Ensuring every piece of data collected has a purpose and being agile enough to change your questions instantly to focus in on areas of concerns is key to making informed decisions about local services.

 

For the first time many Local Authority staff have had to work remotely, and tasks usually performed face to face, like provider assessment and contract management, now need to be undertaken from the desktop. Here again technology is facilitating an effective two-way dialogue to ensure KPIs are measured and allowing Councils to stay connected with their regulated and non-regulated care market.

 

For those running inhouse and reablement services this winter, having technology solutions to maximise capacity and keep office and field staff connected is key. Many Care Workers are now used to receiving rotas on their mobile phones, which means changes to schedules can be easily accommodated and any feedback on service users shared to support high quality care. We’ve seen Councils applying technology in more innovative ways, for example recording and reporting on check-in calls to combat loneliness and isolation, which will be useful this winter.

 

Of course, technology can play a key role in preventing escalating care needs in the first place. With lockdown leading vulnerable people to remain largely sedentary lifestyles for many months - and the potential for further periods of isolation - staying connected and being alerted immediately to a vulnerable person’s health and wellbeing has never been more important.

 

The growth in acceptance of wearable technology solutions, and the ability of machine learning to model and predict risk factors is allowing prevention to be more than just an aspiration. With the ability to empower self-management and enabling individuals to age well at home for longer, prevention solutions can reduce emergency care costs, hospital admissions and the packages of care that follow.

 

Technology was already being recognised as a huge benefit to the health and social care sector, but this pandemic has opened the sector’s eyes to how quickly and efficiently it can be implemented. With risk avoidance, quality and market oversight becoming ever more important during the challenging winter months, innovative digital solutions can provide valuable support to the sector.

 

HAS Technology Group are welcome sponsors of ADASS which furthers our charitable objectives.