Can digital transformation go further in helping address the challenges faced by adult social care providers?January 24th, 2020 by Keith Bird
According to The state of health care and adult social care 2018/19 report by the Care Quality Commission, the general perception of care staff is that the sector has faced challenges in its adoption of technology.
They attribute this to five key barriers:
- a lack of funding to invest in technology and ability to make economic returns, particularly for smaller providers
- a low level of knowledge and awareness among providers and staff – adoption of technology tends to rely on confident individuals
- fear that technology could replace personal support
- the perception that people who use adult social care are not interested or will respond badly to technology
Technology is changing the way people provide care and treatment. The benefits can be huge – for people who use services, their families, carers and care providers. But it is important that technology and innovation never come at the expense of high-quality, person-centred care.
The Benefits of Technology in Care
- give people more control over their health, safety and wellbeing
- support them to be more independent or feel less isolated
- link them to services which are important for them
- enhance the care or treatment providers offer
- help them communicate with families, professionals and staff
- help staff to prioritise and focus their attention on people who need it most
- capture and compare data, and share good practice with peers
To use technology well, the interests of the person using the service must be at its heart. People’s safety, dignity and consent must be at the centre of decisions about their care. This applies to decisions about the use of new technology. Being clear about people’s rights, privacy and choice must always come first.
These questions can help you prepare if you’re thinking about using technology to deliver care.
- How will you involve people who use your service in your plans and putting the new technology into use?
- What do the people it will affect need to know to make an informed choice? Do they fully understand the implications of the new technology?
- Who will the technology affect and how will it affect them?
- What outcome do you want to achieve? How will you measure it?
- Will the technology fully meet the needs of the people using your service? If not, what else do you need to provide?
- Are there more appropriate ways to meet these needs?
- What are the practical and legal issues you need to think about before you introduce new technology?
- What are the risks and how will you manage them? Particularly during transition and early implementation of the technology or system. What is your contingency plan to keep people safe?
- How have you involved your staff? What information and training do they need so they can be confident and competent? This includes understanding their responsibilities and how to respond to associated risks.
What are the 5 Key Aspects to improvement?
Helping ensure key information is accurate and easy to share with caring professionals in real time
Electronic medication management (eMar) systems can:
- help staff to record the medicines given to people in their care
- minimise mistakes or incomplete records
Staff can access digital care plans and records more easily. They can record information in real time. This can be quickly and accurately shared to help keep people safe, and highlight key information, such as up to date medical and allergy information.
Supporting effective communication and more efficient use of resources, including finances
Staff, family and other providers can share digital records more easily and quickly. Staff can use handheld devices to record support given as it happens. This avoids having to complete paper records after the event.
Telemonitoring devices can help a person to manage their own health condition. Their care provider can use the information recorded to spot early signs of changes in their condition.
Supporting person-centred care and helping staff to spend more time on the things that really matter
Technology can support staff to make their processes more efficient. This means that their time isn’t taken up by administrative work.
Digital care records can make information easier to access and quicker to share. This reduces the number of times people who use services have to give information or repeat themselves.
Audio sensors in a bedroom can pick up sounds that suggest someone is in discomfort or distress during the night. The system is flexible, so can meet a person’s needs and choices, and can be switched on and off as required. Rather than carrying out routine checks, staff are alerted if they need to respond. This means they do not need to disturb people unnecessarily, but they can detect developing risks between checks.
Responsive to people’s needs
Supporting providers to be more proactive and responsive to changing needs by helping to identify developing risks or needs more quickly
Communication aids (such as tablet based apps) can be tailored to an individual’s needs, preferences and activities. For example, they can be regularly updated with words and expressions that are important to the person using them. Voice recognition software can help to make adjustments for sensory disabilities. Or a computer based app can be also used to deliver tailor made treatment/recovery plans for people e.g. some exercises that a patient can do at home to help rehabilitation.
Movement sensors show changes in a person’s activity during the day or night. They alert providers to the early signs of changes in need. They can mean a better balance between support and intrusion for people. People know the help is there if they need it, rather than by set routines.
Supporting more effective quality assurance through more effective communication, information sharing and improved data analysis
People who use services and their families can use online platforms to access and contribute to the information that is important to them. They can also communicate with those involved in their care and treatment.
Anonymised data collected can be shared, compared and analysed to identify risks and themes, providing a bigger picture.
Types of Technology Used in Care
These are examples of technology that are widely used in health and social care:
- Digital records
- Automated triage technology
Concerns about ethical or data protection implications in adopting technologies that use personal information, or GPS and surveillance techniques are high. However, perceptions are changing after automated triage technology, digital records, and tele-monitoring have proved successful in providing better outcomes for patients.
The current pace of change is exciting, and the ways we communicate with doctors, access services, get diagnosed, and look after ourselves are all being enhanced by technology. Faster (and cheaper) processing, smarter AI and deepening science (particularly our understanding of genetics) have the potential to revolutionise care in ways we probably can’t yet quite imagine.
We all know these are challenging times for health care and adult social care – increasing pressure on budgets and resources have pushed care providers to do more with less. However, necessity is the mother of invention and those embracing technology in a patient focused way are providing new answers to challenging issues.
Could Digital Transformation help your organisation?
Whist there is no one-size-fits-all digital transformation strategy for healthcare providers, there are common foundations required to underpin digital excellence. These include robust and reliable network infrastructure, communication links, and security. Without these basic building blocks any ambitious plans will likely flounder.
So before starting your digital transformation journey remember to go back to basics first and check the health of the platform that you are going to build upon to improve care outcomes.