Digital technology can make a real different to adult social care. Here’s how

The potential of digital technology to transform social care has long been recognised.

Now, though, health tech has a new champion – the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock. And in summer 2019 we began to see some tangible outcomes of his new emphasis on cutting edge solutions, a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Here’s how a new digitally-enhanced approach to social care can make instant and lasting improvements to both users and the service as a whole.

Seamless health care

Two new tech platforms were introduced within days of one another. On July 4, NHSX officially opened for business.

The new technology unit for the NHS aims to reduce the burden on staff, improve access to services for service users, and boost productivity across the health and social care sector.

And the previous week saw the launch of the the Digital Social Care website.

Billed as a “dedicated space to provide advice and support to the adult social care sector on technology and data protection”, the people behind the project have high hopes for what it can enable. They said:

“Our hope is that in the future we are able to appropriately share information about those we support in real time. This will allow a more personalised and targeted approach to delivering their health and care needs.

“By enabling a digital approach to health and care, essential information can be quickly and efficiently shared with the right health and care professionals. This means that we can offer the people we support a more seamless health and care service.”

From young adults to old age

Transitional care
Young adults who are leaving the social care system need all the support they can get.

Effectively the state is no longer their corporate parent once they turn 18, leaving them to cope with all the challenges of adulthood overnight.

So it is not surprising that young people from a care background are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

Now though a new app developed by NGO Social Finance to give individuals more of a voice in decisions made about their future is currently being piloted by seven local authorities. Its creators say:

“It’s aspirational and the focus is on goals and progression and journey rather than endlessly repeating their story. The ideal experience is one in which youngsters and support workers collaborate both inside and outside of meetings.

So for the first time, we’re providing them with the tools to enable them to express what they’re feeling and what they want for their own lives.

Robot companions
How do we help elderly people to stay living independently in their own home?

There are a range of tech solutions to this question explored in this article in the Telegraph.

Among them: robots. As well as undertaking household tasks like cleaning, robots can act as a companion, reading a book or talking to you.

British care homes have trialled Pepper, a ‘carebot’ created by Japanese engineers, to see if it can reduce the workload of health care staff and encourage owners to wash, dress, eat and drink.

Smart city
Newcastle has been named the Smart City of the Year.

Among its many innovations is an adult social care chat bot, an in-house development that is designed to provide people with adult care information 365 days a year.

Jennifer Hartley, Director, Invest Newcastle said:

“It’s not just about technology, you must understand people to drive new solutions and this is what has makes us different. We know that our smart, clean and digital technologies will enable cities to overcome both economic and social challenges for years to come.”

‘Alexa, did I take my medication?’
To end where we started with digital cheerleader and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, he outlined some of the ways technology might make a positive impact in social care in a speech to the Local Government Association.

These included using the Amazon smart speaker Alexa to prompt the elderly and other vulnerable people to take their medication.

And he also described audio monitoring systems in care homes as “life-saving” technology.

 
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For more information about our social care research contact Richard Bryan, Managing Director at richard.bryan@qaresearch.co.uk and 01904 632039