Whether it’s the latest email from Amazon or a stroll down the ‘middle aisle’ at Aldi, I seem to be surrounded by ‘innovative’ products trying to solve a problem I didn’t know I had. So, whilst my new colour changing, water-fountain speakers seemed like a great idea at the time, I now find myself questioning whether they’ve really improved my life. With the proliferation of new services, equipment and apps in the care technology market it’s very easy for local authorities to be left asking a similar question – has this investment, whilst exciting, genuinely delivered better outcomes for their citizens?

Funding pressures and technological advancements have fuelled an increasing appetite to innovate in the field of care technology to enhance outcomes for residents and improve financial sustainability. But, amidst the myriad of ‘innovations,’ how can councils separate the solutions that will unlock the full potential of care technology to improve people’s lives from those that are little more than a colour changing water-fountain speaker?

Councils should focus on those innovations that are sustainable at scale, deliver tangible financial benefits, and most importantly, allow people to live safer and more independent lives. Identifying solutions with the potential to achieve this requires critical evaluation, but before that, it’s important to remember three things:

1. Innovation can be about doing things differently, not just using new technology

The technological revolution of the past few decades has provided countless examples of new product innovations driven by outcomes. In the field of care technology, this includes work we have been doing with Cobots and Amazon Echo. However, this doesn’t mean we should lose sight of the ability to innovate by simply doing things differently. Often this can provide a far quicker and more cost effective solution, as we found in implementing a new approach to utilising care technology in Supported Living. You don't need gadgets just for the sake of it.

2. The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’

Much like my impulse purchases, innovation is often driven by the availability of something new, or the ‘what.’ But by focusing on the ‘what’, it’s easy to lose sight of why innovation is required. Starting with ‘why’ puts the need to achieve a specific outcome at the heart of the decision-making process, ensuring the innovation has purpose and will change people’s lives for the better, lessening the need for services.

3. There’s no innovation without effective implementation

Even the best innovations are only as good as their implementation. Before Tesla there was the General Motors EV1 and before the Xbox, there was Dreamcast, both innovations ahead of their time that failed to conquer the market. Whether it’s a service or product innovation, developing your care technology service requires more than just a good idea, it requires implementation, otherwise you end up with cupboards full of equipment.

Remaining focused on outcomes and benefits will be even more important as the digital shift brings with it new opportunities that are untested at scale. The question to ask when considering these opportunities is: will the outcomes and benefits justify the excitement?

Oliver Peppiatt, PA Consulting government and public sector expert.

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