How Technology is Transforming The Future of Social Care
by Steve Morgan, Partnership Director, Agilisys (www.agilisys.co.uk)
Chronic underfund- ing, a workforce crisis, insufficient modernisation and COVID-19 are all testing social care to the limits. There is now, however, an opportunity to reassess, redesign and re-ignite a strategy for lasting, effective change as we emerge from the pandemic.
The social care sy tem is complex and fragmented, with care being provided by around 18,500 organisations throughout the country. Good practice being developed in one part of the care sector is difficult to share. A joined-up view is needed to achieve a clear vision.
By thinking long-term and bringing together the fragmented sector, funding decisions can be made to drive efficiencies and modernise the traditional service, to benefit all.
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY ARE LEADING THE WAY
Demand for care is not going to reduce, so it’s down to critical technologies to transform the future of care:
• Tools for collaboration
There is a growing movement towards a ‘delivery ecosystem’ of collaboration tools. You can plug a variety of options into one connectivity hub, which enables everything from telehealth and telecare to social inclusion and family contact, without the need to have six or seven different boxes.
• Reduced inbound demand, through automation
There has been a fundamental switch from inbound telephony-based contact services to proactive outbound ones. To make those services more productive, you have to reduce inbound demand.
That is where artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) are important. If the repeatable and everyday tasks are automated, staff have more time to make a difference to the people they care for.
• Advanced predictive analytics
Data is critical to any strategic, joined-up future of care. Predictive analytics can help understand when somebody is in danger of needing health or residential care, which can dramatically reduce the overall cost of care delivery.
Using data to inform more effective decisions is the way forward and with the use of the Integrated care system (ICS) and how it will bring together data collection and joined-up data usage.
• Data collection at home
Technology can identify when there are issues with damp, carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature. Having knowledge of the environment vulnerable people are living in, can reduce and remove any knock-on effects.
• Social care cost modelling
Social care makes up most of local authority spend. In 2018/19, total expenditure on social care by councils was £22.2bn. Using data to pre- dict outcomes and effective routes, social care cost modelling enables users to take any cohort of children or adults and apply one or more of a huge range of potential scenarios to it. This shows authorities how much social care services are costing them, and what they can do about it.
• Microsoft Viva
The transition to permanent remote working raises a crucial question: how does an organisation create a culture, a sense of belonging, a mission and connection in the absence of a physical presence? Employee Experience platforms such as Viva focus on employee wellbeing to help avoid burnout, highlight efficiency gains, and bring knowledge together in one place.
• Remote working solutions
Providing frontline staff with remote working solutions, encompassing software and client information, allows professionals to spend more time with their clients, speed up data capture, decision-making and reduce transcribing errors.
USER ENGAGEMENT KEY TO SUCCESS
Technology alone will not drive the change. If the purpose of a new app or software is not apparent, then it already presents a cognitive issue to your team. Only by engaging the intended users through a change programme will change have the opportunity to succeed. Stimulate conversations, test ideas and gain buy-in from those who will be using the technology every-day.
HOW CAN WE TAKE ACTION NOW?
Think of every aspect of care delivery. Is it the right thing to do? Is the level of spending correct? What is the value? Do this right and it will drive a fundamental shift in thinking; towards treating the delivery of care like a business.
2. Introduce strategic thinking
Care is one of those few areas in in the 21st century, where there appears to be little strategic thinking around the continual improvement of service delivery. It is time to mirror the NHS and implement a five- year plan.
3. Map opportunities for partnerships
Currently, different bodies deliver assessments dependent on the area. Far better to bring those together and have them delivered by a single individual who is empowered to operate on behalf of those other organisations. Joined-up, multi-agency thinking is required
4. Think prevention, not cure
Preventative investment in social care will deliver benefits to society as more people will stay healthy, happy, and independent for as long as possible.
5. Embrace organisation-wide technology
A recent paper from Socitm showed social workers are more ‘digital ready’ than previously thought. More frontline staff need to be identify- ing opportunities for digital improvements; not just in service management and client outcomes, but in what the future of social care could be.
By investing in preventative, person-centred approaches, including asset-based solutions to reducing social isolation, shared lives and community agents, outcomes can be improved, and costs reduced.
Technology has a huge potential to support more people to live independently. Data, workforce and true partnerships are critical in deliver- ing care at the right time, making differences for people.