Guest blog: The role of Assistive Technology in adult social care reform
Assistive technology (AT) is not a new concept, and it has been delivering significant benefits to millions of people in the UK for many years, by increasing independence and improving wellbeing.
However, its deployment varies considerably from council to council, both in terms of the number of people able to access it and the type of technology available. And yet, our recent report with the County Councils Network showed that 75% of county local authorities believe there is potential to do much more with AT, helping them to both increase the number of people they are able to support, and improve the quality of care.
It is widely accepted that adult social care in England is in urgent need of reform. Clearly the issue is a complex one, but as with many other aspects of our lives, technology could have a key role to play in enabling services to be delivered in a different way and as such it should be considered when looking at system reform.
We have seen many examples of how COVID-19 forced rapid change, such as the introduction of phone and video consultations by the NHS, and it’s vital that we don’t lose the gains made as we begin to look to the future. For local authorities, using the power of technology to provide support to those who need it can provide an essential platform to enable more targeted and integrated delivery of health and care.
For example, remote health monitoring can reduce the need for patients, carers and clinicians to travel, improving quality of life for patients, increasing caseload capacity for professionals and minimising risks of cross infection. The system identifies patients most in need of attention and can allow early identification of deterioration in health, enabling interventions to be made which avoid the need for more complex care.
AT such as telecare provides 24 hour support, ensuring a response is available at the touch of a button, and enabling help to be sent automatically in the event of an emergency such as a fall or fire. These relatively low-cost systems offer background reassurance to help maintain independence, as well as providing a platform to build other services upon, such as domiciliary care, day centres and respite care. Technology can also support carers, giving them peace of mind that they will be alerted if needed.
Technology can also be used proactively. For example, systems can be easily installed that monitor activities of daily living and can inform care planning, as well as enabling preventative care. Increased visits to the bathroom could indicate the onset of a urinary tract infection, or conversely decreased use of the bathroom and kitchen may signal a possible decline in self-care. Making family and/or professionals aware of such trends means appropriate support can be offered at the right time.
Technology alone cannot provide all the answers for social care, and importantly should be used to enhance, not replace human contact. But the last two years have shown many of us how technology can do more to help us connect in meaningful ways, both professionally and personally. We should not miss the opportunity to fulfil its potential as we engineer the next generation of social care.
Angus Honeysett, Head of Market Access at Tunstall Healthcare @TunstallHealth
Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change
techUK, in collaboration with its Local Public Services Committee, has published a new report making the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives. The report, ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change’