Professional Comment

A Decade Of Evolution In Care: From Point Solutions To Holistic Care Planning And Beyond

By Steve Sawyer, Managing Director at Access Health, Support & Care (HSC)

The past 10 years have brought monumental shifts to the care sector, with digitisation transforming how care is delivered. Steve Sawyer, Managing Director at Access HSC, reflects on the changes since joining a decade ago.

The care landscape was a very different place when we launched Access HSC a decade ago, and it’s incredible to see how far things have come since then. The vision at Access HSC has evolved too, though our founding principle remains the same: using technology to improve people’s lives.

In the early 2010s, digital maturity in most care providers was relatively low compared to many other sectors, and yet the challenges were complex and multiple. Delivering a person-focused service amid regulatory challenges, tough logistics, and the twin pressures of low fee rates and low wages presented a uniquely difficult situation, particularly when coupled with the increasingly complex needs of an ageing population. Nonetheless, these challenges were met with pen, paper, goodwill, and a determination to support the vulnerable.

As with other solution providers of the time, tackling the logistical conundrum of getting the right person in the right place at the right time was an early focus for Access HSC — the division itself was born out of a specialist rostering solution for home care providers, and a time and attendance and payroll system for care homes.

Rostering, of course, developed over time into complex contract management, client acquisition, self-service portals and mobile apps. But the real transformation in the sector happened in 2014, when the point of focus shifted from not just answering the logistics of care, but truly digitising the delivery of care. We evolved from getting the right person in the right place at the right time, to ensuring they delivered the right care, personalised to the individual, with the right medication, right processes and right governance. We moved beyond merely addressing the “how” of logistics to the “what” and the “why” of care delivery, empowering care teams to deliver tailored and meaningful support to every individual.

Reaching a tipping point

The profound challenges of Covid-19 reinforced the value of the digital evolution. In particular, we saw huge numbers of care homes – many of which remained analogue – begin to digitise, driven by innovations in care planning and electronic medication administration records (eMAR), learning management systems, digital policies and procedures, and shared systems for care compliance. For home care providers, digital systems became a fundamental baseline for managing carers and the cared-for. The pandemic not only underscored the urgency of technical innovation across all facets of care, but also the importance of integration and collaboration.

It wasn’t just about how the industry responded during the crisis, either. Covid-19 prompted a palpable shift in how society, the media, and government perceive care. As the too-often overlooked first line of defence in public health, politicians and the public began to recognise care’s vital role in the broader health ecosystem. This has led to increased financial support for digital initiatives within the sector, which has the capacity to uplift the entire health and care system if it is sustained – as it must be, if we are to make any steps towards fixing an overloaded health system.

Defining the next era of care

As we look ahead to the next decade, I see many exciting possibilities. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and technology enabled care (TEC) pose incredible opportunities for personalised, proactive and predictive services, helping to keep individuals out of acute settings, freeing up capacity, and enabling individuals to live independently for longer.

We have entered a world where the use of sensors and AI can make a real difference to maintaining health and independence by understanding the daily routines of care home residents, or individuals receiving care in their own homes. With subtle deviations from an individual’s daily patterns providing early warning signs, family members and the wider professional care circle can be alerted before a situation escalates into a more serious health incident. Through this approach, we can start to proactively avoid or slow down declines in health, reduce hospital admissions and create capacity in the system.

Used effectively, this will fundamentally change the fabric of care. The convergence of new technology, forward thinking and the impending analogue to digital switchover is helping to accelerate this evolution.

Maintaining the human touch

Despite the exciting opportunities that technology presents, one factor remains crucial: maintaining the human touch. Whilst technology enabled care, AI and data have the potential to transform care delivery and empower support teams like never before, as technology providers, our ultimate goal is to help care providers and the caregivers that work with them to put the individual at the heart of what they do – what we describe as ‘the freedom to make it personal’.