The Future of Health and Social Care in a Post-Pandemic World

By Steve Morgan, Partnership Director, Agilisys (www.agilisys.co.uk)

Covid-19 has turned the daily rhythms and routines of everybody upside down, not least of which those within the nursing and residential care home sector. Health and social care, weakened by years of chronic underfunding and rising demand, was already staring into an abyss. Whilst the newly announced vaccine provides hope, there is still plenty that the sector needs to do to assure its future. What does the future look like for health and social care? How will the ways care is delivered change in 2021 and beyond? And, crucially, what impact will this have on patients?

THE CONTINUED DISPLACEMENT OF TECHNOLOGY

By deploying technology across people’s homes and linking it with the digitised front door, a large proportion of attended care at home can be displaced, making large savings and improving the quality of service delivered. For example, sensors like oximeters or door contact sensors that trigger an exception when dementia sufferers open doors at unexpected times, can reduce the number of home visits dramatically.
CREATING A CARE BUBBLE

Vulnerable people are alone now more than ever, and health care teams are struggling to keep up with the demand. Technology can help to create and connect support teams whether that be family members, third sector organisations or charitable groups.

Technology can account for a patient’s routine, medication and needs. Plus, it can enable a community of volunteers, family members, friends and neighbours to help with day-to-day care. Therefore, creating a sup- port bubble around at-risk individuals. This bubble could consist of 10,000 volunteers or organisations that bring different skills to the table, in addition to any formal care that would still be required.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS

There needs to be additional targeted investment post-pandemic to finally integrate health and social care throughout the UK. It is a case of safety in numbers. However, there are still significant technology and data challenges to bringing residential and domiciliary care into the 21st century. And there remains basic technology issues that need urgent attention. As recently as last year, only 75% of residential care homes had an Internet connection.

CHANGING THE ROLE OF CONTACT CENTRES

The wider changes to working habits will impact the delivery of social care. Due to contact centre head- counts being reduced as home working takes over, the focus will be on technology to virtually bring people together. If an issue needs to be raised that’s associated with one part of provisioning or social care, workers need to be able to do so automatically and immediately.

Traditional contact centres who operate an ‘inbound’ contact model must now change to a proactive ‘out- bound’ contact model; making video calls, verifying current situations and using the proactive support bubble to ensure closer integration with primary care.
TAKING A HOLISTIC VIEW

We are already seeing increased interest in chatbots to manage inbound demand and expect this to accelerate further, supported by more complex Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation led solutions.

It is likely that there is a large amount of pent-up demand for care – people have battened down the hatch- es and held off making requests but as the world returns to normal, they will do so. Therefore, the opportunities to signpost and manage that demand by automation may be required.

What has been missing when looking at social care in the past is for somebody to sit back and take the holistic view; looking at how existing technologies come together to deliver the outcomes that we need. Get the technology angle right and you can deliver integrated care.

The pressures on the sector are severe – and have been seriously exacerbated by the pandemic – however the vaccine and the re-emergence of technology solution provides hope.

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